British-born drawing festival makes its way to Evanston


Source: Elory Rozner

The events of the Big Draw Evanston target a variety of ages and interests, with the aim of gathering people in public spaces to create art collectively.

Kelley Czajka, Assistant A&E Editor


The Big Draw festival crossed the Atlantic years ago, but next month, Evanston residents will find it in their own city.

Evanston resident Elory Rozner founded the first-ever Big Draw Evanston, a month-long festival of drawing-related events throughout October, as a way to encourage community members to engage in collective art-making and get out of their creative comfort zones.

The Big Draw started in a small town outside of London about 15 years ago, and individuals like Rozner have brought it to cities and towns all over the world since then. Rozner organized the Big Draw Chicago in 2012 and 2013, but after living in Evanston for five years and getting to know the community, she decided to bring it a little farther north.

“Evanston has such a vibrant arts and culture and community landscape and I wanted to be part of that,” Rozner said. “I thought the community here would respond to and appreciate something like the Big Draw, which is really focused on community engagement and not on professional art making.”

The purpose of the festival is to bring people together to explore public spaces through the creation of art, and drawing is the ideal medium to achieve this because it is so informal and inclusive, Rozner said. In October, Big Draw will host 25 programs in 22 different public spaces across Evanston, from “Tracing the Building” at the Block Museum of Art to mosaic making at the Levy Senior Center.

She added that another objective of the Big Draw is to give public spaces the opportunity to work with the local arts community and use their facilities for on-site programming.

The Evanston programs have been designed on a smaller scale than those of Big Draw Chicago, and Rozner said she expects the events to have a much more intimate atmosphere.

“Everything is free, everything is informal, everything is meant to be designed in a very intuitive way so that when people come in for programming, they know what to do, they feel at home, they feel comfortable and welcome,” Rozner said.

Rozner and her advisory board prioritized having a wide range of locations, sizes and types of organizations to put on programs that target a variety of ages.

“There are so many different things that appeal to different interests, different ages, different skill levels that anybody will find something that resonates with them,” said Jennifer Lasik, the city’s cultural arts coordinator. “They can do it wherever they want to, and that’s a very powerful thing in a community as far as leveraging our creativity and getting people involved in the arts.”

Because the festival is being held during October, it encompasses the feeling of celebration during the Illinois Arts and Humanities Month, Lasik said. She added that the mixing of art with subjects varying from nature to literature speaks to the theme of the month.

One event that highlights this aspect of the festival is teaching artist Jason Brown’s “Collective Cartography” workshop. At this event, community members will gather to create large-scale maps of Evanston’s economic, spiritual, social and natural resources, and to prompt discussion about equitable access to these resources within our community, Brown said.

Brown, who is on the planning board for the Big Draw Evanston, said he hopes these events will inspire participants to continue creative pursuits even beyond the festival.

“I really like the idea of taking down the artist and non-artist barrier, so I’m glad that the Big Draw will be able to do that,” Brown said. “I hope that people are empowered to do creative endeavors, even if they don’t label themselves an artist, and just branch out and do things with their neighbors in a new way.”

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