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Loose bicycle parts, vegetables, and brewers’ yeast are among the unlikely materials chosen to inspire the creativity of Evanstonians who participate in the month-long festival called The Big Draw.
Between Oct. 1 and Halloween, 30 free art happenings will take place in 22 Evanston venues as diverse as a bike shop, a grocery store, a brewery, and an art gallery.
The Big Draw promises to bring friends and strangers together to heighten their visual acuity and, perhaps, pencil in hand, to think in new ways.
Calling Evanston “a fantastic community” of people who “support community engagement,” event founder and producer Elory Rozner says it is “a joy” to be able to offer free programs to which attendees can bring their own experiences.
An interactive calendar on the website www.thebigdrawevanston.org charts the dates and times of festival offerings and, with a click, supplies details about each event. Some sessions will be led by artists; others, by program specialists at a particular site.
Ms. Rozner notes several activities designed especially for families. On Oct. 4, kids and their parents will use edibles from the produce department at Whole Foods Market on Green Bay Road to make vegetable prints. On Oct. 8, The Big Draw interacts with the Evanston Public Library’s second annual Storytelling Festival. After listening to stories, children will gather in a collaborative space to draw their responses. The following Saturday, Oct. 15, the Evanston Ecology Center will offer a program that aligns with its mission of connecting people with nature. Families will go outdoors (indoors, in case of rain) to draw directly from nature.
Teens and others can follow their muse on Oct. 8 when in-house artists at Blick Art reveal the secrets of making one’s own comic at Comic Book Inking. The next Friday, Oct. 14, McGaw YMCA hosts Meta Drawing in its MetaMedia lab. At “open-house-style tinkering” stations, teens can make robots that turn out scribble art; learn to create art with code and then send patterns to 3-D printers for fabrication; or can experiment with color and motion to make spin art. On Oct. 21, the recently renovated Gibbs-Morrison Cultural Center gets hip with Spoken Word/Drawn Response, an event that invites “drawn reactions” to the original poetry teens voice over an open mic.
The general public is invited to the Wheel & Sprocket bike shop on Oct. 22, when old chains, rims, and the like will become mark-making tools for drawing portraits of and messages about bikeable cities.
Alice George is both a teaching artist and a co-owner of Sketchbook Brewery, whose name fits the theme of the festival. In an Oct. 16 event restricted to adults 21 and over, Ms. George will lead participants into the heart of the brewery to create large-scale observational drawings of the machinery, hoses, and fermenters used in brewing. They will also be able to make smaller drawings inspired by the remarkable structures of that key beer ingredient: yeast. Food and beverage will be available for purchase.
Those who take part in Evanston’s Big Draw will be joining not only local compatriots but also tens of thousands of participants worldwide. The art event that started in London 10-plus years ago now exists in more than 25 countries around the globe.
Ms. Rozner, whose business, Uncommon Classrooms, creates educational programs and exhibits for museums, says she discovered The Big Draw in 2012 in the course of research for a client. The idea caught on first in European cities and then in other places around the world. In the U.S., only Los Angeles and New York had adopted it.
Ms. Rozner decided to import the festival to Chicago, where she worked and, at the time, lived. Though she was not paid for the Chicago events she produced in 2012 and 2013, she says she learned so much from the experience that “it felt like a second Master’s degree.” Coordinating The Big Draw Chicago taught her “how to engage people in different spaces,” she says – how to attract both tourists and neighborhood residents, for example, and how to utilize both large and small spaces. Above all, the festival gave her the chance to “pull together disparate parts to make something cohesive,” she says.
It left her with invaluable skills and connections for her day job – and with a yearning to forge the same bonds in Evanston, where she has lived for five years. Never slow on the draw, she pulled the event together in just over six months. The City of Evanston lent its support from the outset, Ms. Rozner says. Since she says she “didn’t know people here,” Ms. Rozner started “reaching out” in February or March, assembling an advisory board who “would vouch for me and the project” and sending individual emails to people she hoped to work with.
She met face to face to brainstorm programming with those who agreed and then secured funding to buy supplies, hire a web designer, a poster and postcard artist, and five teaching artists to preside over certain sessions. By July 1 the calendar was essentially complete.
The Big Draw is “a passion project” for Ms. Rozner, who says she finds it “tremendously satisfying to see people making art.” But the success of the Evanston festival depends upon its being a big draw for participants.