Draw-A-Thon art festival goes virtual in 2020: Get ready to get sketchy | Arts

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The annual Draw-A-Thon is a do-it-yourself art festival, where everyone is welcome to channel their inner Frida Kahlo as they create sketches in an all-ages, all-talent-level, communal atmosphere.

Usually, the walls of the Draw-A-Thon site are coated with brown butcher paper and the floors are lined with cardboard, so that visitors can draw wherever and whenever inspiration strikes. The festival, which is now in its 15th year, usually lasts for 24 hours straight, for the sake of early risers and night owl artists. There are usually expert demonstrations, wacky activities and camaraderie.

Usually. But the escalating coronavirus contagion has made in-person camaraderie ill-advised.

“We knew back in the spring, when the other festivals were canceled, that an indoor event with 1,000 people would not be possible,” said co-director Amanda Cassingham-Bardwell.

So this year, the Draw-A-Thon is going virtual.

On Dec. 5-6, free drawing activity books, big sheets of brown paper and other drawings supplies will be available at various sites around the city. In the safety of their homes, participants will draw, draw, draw, sharing their creations via the Draw-A-Thon Instagram feed.

“We’ll have drawing tips and themes throughout the day,” Cassingham-Bardwell said, “as if we were doing something together.”

Press Street Draw-A-Thon is 24 hours of creative bliss

Attendees create spiral drawings at the Press Street Draw-A-Thon Saturday, November 29, 2014 at Art Klub (Josh Brasted Photo)

One of the favorite activities each year is the incredible Draw-A-Thon drawing machine, a mysterious device that can take any suggestion and produce an illustration to match. OK, Cassingham-Bardwell confessed, “the machine” is really a skilled artist hidden in a cardboard box. This year, participants can send in their suggestions as Instagram posts, and the “machine” will post the resulting art.

Draw-A-Thon is presented by Antenna Gallery and the Paper Machine printing shop. “It’s great that we have the printing facility,” Cassingham-Bardwell said. Otherwise, “It wouldn’t be feasible to give away 5,000 books for free.”

The 2020 festival may not be as social an activity as it has been in the past, but, Cassingham-Bardwell said, it still fulfills the purpose of the in-person event.

“It brings it back to one of the core ideas,” she said. “Drawing is for everyone. Drawing is like a way to create joy when there’s need for that.”

On Dec. 5-6, drawing supplies will be available curbside at the Paper Machine at 6330 St. Claude Ave. from 8 a.m. to dusk, and at other locations that will be listed on the Draw-A-Thon website antenna.works/drawathon. The Draw-A-Thon 2020 Instagram page address is @drawathon2020 and postings should be tagged #drawathonnola2020.

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