Draw Durham program lets student artists sketch their surroundings

Draw Durham: Biweekly Sketching is a new program that brings student artists into Durham and lets them sketch the world around them.
Draw Durham: Biweekly Sketching is a new program that brings student artists into Durham and lets them sketch the world around them.

Student artists at Duke, especially those not majoring in visual arts, know the struggle of finding like-minded individuals and opportunities to practice their craft well. A new initiative hopes to address this challenge. 

Juniors Della Tao and Joyce Er have been involved in the Duke visual arts world since arriving on campus. As chairs of the DUU VisArts committee last year, they quickly noticed this lack of community. 

“There aren’t visual arts organizations where the members just show up, meet each other, make art, get to know other artists and grow as artists themselves,” Er said.

During their sophomore year, they begin searching for ways to combat this problem within the visual arts community at Duke. Their solution was Draw Durham: Bi-Weekly Sketch Walks, an event modeled off of a modified version of urban sketching. This method of sketching is an international movement where artists draw from life, rather than from photographs, perfect for the introduction of artists to Durham and its wider artistic culture. 

Draw Durham was founded with the purposes of "building a visual arts community and introducing Duke students in general into the greater Durham area,” Tao said.

Although it is still in its early stages, the program is doing just that with a growing artistic community involved. 

“The sketch walks are a step in the right direction: showing the university that there is a genuine demand for visual art,” Er said.

The program began with two workshops: one for making watercolor kits and another for book binding. The goal was to prep the artists with everything they could need to go out and sketch. Since then, the program has gone on two sketch walks: one to Durham Farmers Market and one to 21c Museum in downtown Durham. Student instructors and professors accompany the artists to help guide them as they explore the city. These instructors are able to help beginners learn to draw and guide lifelong artists in perfecting their craft.

DrawDurham Art.jpg
The artwork produced at a Draw Durham sketch walk.

Beyond the community of artists they are creating at Duke, the founders of Draw Durham hope to expose them to the many artistic outlets in the city. The goal is to eradicate the false perception that “there is no art in Durham,” when in fact, the city has a booming arts culture and community. 

Tao said that while the artists were at the Duke Farmer’s Market, a number of individuals came up to talk about their passion for art and potential opportunities. Artists also take inspiration from the Durham community to create their own pieces.

Initially targeted towards freshmen, the program is now comprised of a diverse mix of individuals, ranging from juniors to grad students. 

"It is for everyone," Er said. You don’t need to have skill.” The main requirement is a willingness to learn and grow as artists.

Inspired by Jason Polan’s Taco Bell Drawing Club, Tao and Er have been working to establish a Pitchforks drawing group that meets on alternating Saturdays between the sketch walks. Poland founded the club in 2005 in New York City, where he and other artists would gather at a Taco Bell once a week and sketch and talk. 

Tao and Er hope to do the same thing at Pitchforks on campus. This opportunity would give artists a low commitment method to express their passion and practice their skills. They hope to have this secondary group up and running after fall break and the end of midterm season.

Since Draw Durham was founded, Er said Duke has provided extensive financial support in providing facilities and materials. 

“The university isn’t necessarily against supporting the visual arts," she said. "They’ve just been waiting for someone to come out and work on it."

For information on how to join, visit the Draw Durham Facebook or Instagram page.


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