Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

The Big Draw LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Ryman Arts

Our idea is to build on our Big Draw LA campaign, which entails organizing a month-long series of inclusive, highly participatory public drawing experiences across Los Angeles at traditional and non-traditional venues. Through the month of October, we create and promote community drawing events at a diverse pool of venues such as museums, libraries, senior centers, restaurants, bars, parks, science centers, retail stores, or any other establishments that can help us get the public drawing! The Big Draw LA initiative, which we are presenting for the fourth year, will build community, entice non-professionals to make art, and encourage the public to value drawing as a tool for their own creative expression. When Ryman Arts first launched The Big Draw LA in 2010, it was an experiment. Based on our experience, we now see that this initiative has deepened our involvement with the larger community and broadened our own program’s students' experience, thus strengthening our core program while at the same time cultivating the well-being and quality of life for our fellow Los Angelenos. The BDLA also includes our organization’s flagship event, “Make Your Mark in the Park” where both our students and alumni encourage and engage the public to make art. A fun-filled, creative afternoon, we celebrate the act of drawing by welcoming thousands of Angelenos to draw together on paper rolled out along the length of an iconic Los Angeles park. After, the drawing is photographed and showcased as a scrolling panorama online. Last year’s event was held at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles where thousands captured the spirit of Grand Park and downtown Los Angeles. Students from our Ryman Arts program were on site to provide the public with art supplies and encouragement. The Big Draw LA ensures that we can continue to educate young artists on the value of community engagement, build awareness of the value of art making, and increase opportunities for artistic participation among the greater Los Angeles public. All of these lead to an increase in public participation, and appreciation of both formal and informal arts events, and impact on Los Angeles’ role as a leader in the arts. We hope to reach as many Los Angelenos as possible at our proposed BDLA events, allowing a broader mix of the public to engage directly with making art in their specific LA communities. Funding will allow us to try more unusual venues, work with smaller community organizations that need more support to develop their BDLA events, and develop new tools to link events with online components—ultimately, increasing access to the project.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Having spearheaded The Big Draw LA since inception in Los Angeles in 2010 and participated in the international Big Draw Conference in London in 2009, Ryman Arts is excited to be in its fourth year presenting The Big Draw LA with the support of a two-year grant from the James Irvine Foundation. Ryman Arts executive director Diane Brigham and our staff have a strong commitment to the philosophical underpinnings of the initiative and gained unparalleled experience in both producing large scale public drawing events in complex collaborations, and coordinating the efforts of numerous and varied groups who produce their own BDLA events. Our organization has engaged over 65 organizations in The Big Draw LA, leading to over a hundred public drawing events. Approximately 8,000 members of the community have participated in The Big Draw LA flagship events, “Make Your Mark in the Park”. The success of The Big Draw LA initiative mirrors the success of its presenter, Ryman Arts.

Recently named a National Program of Excellence by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities, Ryman Arts harnesses the talent and promise of Southern California youth who would otherwise not have access to advanced art education to help these teens reach their high potential. Ryman Arts believes that through the arts, youth can learn essential skills for both creative expression and life. Ryman Arts fosters students’ artistic development and personal confidence, and provides the knowledge and resources they need to pursue higher education and careers in the arts. Ryman Arts offers free intensive studio classes taught by master teaching artists, college and career planning, field trips, support services, and community engagement opportunities–all free of charge. Beginning with a single drawing class for 12 students in 1990, Ryman Arts has grown to 30 classes for 450 students annually, engaged 4,500+ Southern California teens in its core program, and provided outreach activities to 7,500+ inner city students. Classes are held on Sundays at the studios of Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, and as of January 2013, we have expanded to offer classes on Saturdays at a second location on the campus of California State University, Fullerton in Orange County.

At our recent College Day, 23 universities and art schools met with students and reviewed portfolios of their work. The Spring Career program includes a panel for students and their parents, a “Packaging Yourself” workshop, and behind the scenes tours at studios including Disney and DreamWorks Animation. Since 2005, the annual Ryman Arts student exhibition and graduation has been held at the California African-American Museum. We ensure broad access to the program with specialized outreach to underserved, low-income neighborhoods, including workshops at Title 1 high schools. There were over 225 applications for the Spring 2013 semester—the highest number of applications in years.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Over 65 organizations have partnered with The Big Draw LA in previous years ranging from LA public libraries to schools to shops. Additionally, we collaborate with numerous institutions (e.g. Active Arts at the Music Center), parks (e.g. Exposition Park and Grand Park), museums (e.g. The Huntington Library, The Getty, Craft and Folk Art Museum) and additional non-traditional facilities to expand the program’s reach to the widest geographic and broadest demographic possible. Over the past two years we have formed an informal advisory group made up of individuals who have demonstrated particular expertise and leadership in conceptualizing Big Draw LA activities. It is through these collaborations that we’ve been able to expand our reach.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

We will evaluate The Big Draw LA based on our objectives and expected outcomes. Our objectives are to encourage varied community organizations to organize events, and coordinate the overall presentation and marketing of at least 100 audience participatory drawing events designed especially for non-professional artists for the The Big Draw LA (BDLA) month of October; produce 1 “flagship” BDLA community art-making event in October reaching at least 3,000 people; support the development of engaging informal drawing activities that will involve the public actively in art-making by providing at least 40 planning events in advance that are geared to non-arts organizations and/or non-traditional arts venues; and foster the interaction of community artists with non-professional participants.

We expect outcomes such as increased participation in direct drawing experiences by at least 14,000 non-professionals from the Los Angeles area; at least 150 community groups, particularly non-arts focused groups, will have received program support to plan their own public drawing event, and will be inclined to use participatory art making experiences with their audiences to draw business; and awareness of the value of community arts engagement and active non-professional art making will increase among Los Angeles area leaders and artists.

We will also evaluate our success through: tracking the number of people who participate in individual BDLA events; tracking the number of users of our online and mobile resources; and tracking the number of community groups who register public BDLA events along with an analysis of the type of organizations presenting BDLA events.

We plan to assess qualitative factors through debriefing sessions with the advisory group, post –event facilitated discussions with event organizers, and an analysis of participating demographics.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

By using both traditional and non-traditional venues such as parks, public libraries, community centers, city streets, parking lots, theaters and train stations, we are able to reach underserved Los Angeles populations that may not seek or view art in their day-to-day activities, and engage them in the act of creation. Participating in art making and cultural activities leads to a stronger community and enhances human development at the individual level.

As before, we expect that numerous museums, schools, cultural organizations, galleries, and even retail outlets will participate this October in The Big Draw LA. By having all the events marketed jointly, participants who participate in an event in their own neighborhoods first may be enticed to visit an unfamiliar venue for another event later in the month. By further diversifying the array of presenting venues, we want to be sure there are drawing events close to residents from across the Los Angeles region. While one may not expect to see a drawing activity at a park or on a local street during daily activities (commuting through a transit station, a weekend shopping day, a race or other sports activity, a farmers market), its ease of access may encourage people to stop and participate. The benefits of unique sites can work both ways. Our organization would like the extra resources to provide all art materials, resource guides, and other public awareness materials to our Los Angeles partners—making it as easy and accessible as possible for a traditional or non-traditional venue to host a Big Draw LA event for their surrounding communities.

For many people, the notion of drawing can be intimidating. Most do not consider themselves to be artists; yet we know that drawing is something rewarding everyone can do. The informality of the highly participatory experiences, the familiarity of the venues, and the thoughtful planning of the presenters fosters a positive experience. In our previous three years of BDLA, we found that many participants simply discovered our flagship “Make Your Mark in the Park” event while walking through Exposition Park or Grand Park to get somewhere else. These people stayed and seemed delighted to have discovered the opportunity to “get back to drawing,” and were willing to not just watch their children draw, but to draw with them, and happily took a sketchbook to “do more” as they left. By bringing activities close to home, and in many cases, integrated as an extension of other activities the family is already engaged with, it is more likely that they will choose to participate, and feel it was a fulfilling experience worth repeating. We hope that this will bring active participation in cultural and artistic activities to the many pockets of the Los Angeles area.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

The Big Draw LA encourages participants to rediscover the power of drawing as both a tool and as a way of seeing the world. In 2050, the phrase “I can’t draw” would be removed from our collective rhetoric. Drawing, like speaking, writing and mathematics, would be a ubiquitous language of communication among all people. Drawing would be a basis for social interactions and understanding. Just as penmanship is secondary to the idea conveyed through language, one’s skill in drawing would be secondary to the concept being explored or exchanged with others. Tablet technologies, with their numerous drawing and collaborative whiteboard applications, are currently blurring the line between artist and non-artist and expanding the definition of drawing into a form of communication. Additionally the global connectivity of the internet allows us to share or even collaborate on drawings with people who speak different languages. With the Big Draw LA initiative, we hope that the year 2050 will be one of open, accessible, and welcomed participation in artistic and cultural activities without any feelings of unfamiliarity or intimidation for members of the Los Angeles community. This will also link directly with active engagement at our city’s many artistic and cultural offerings at both traditional venues (e.g. museums) and non-traditional venues (e.g. your local café or Laundromat). Overall, we will uphold the positive economic impact of these activities within our greater Los Angeles.