Arts and Entertainment | Art

The Big Draw: Sketching a new path for visual arts at Columbia

To the faculty of the Columbia University School of the Arts (SoA), even Alma Mater looking down upon Low Plaza with a severed head in her left hand is art. This new embellishment of a historical sculpture was one of many student-made art installations on Low Plaza during SoA’s inaugural public composition event, titled The Big Draw.

A brainchild of the SoA visual arts faculty, The Big Draw was set up to draw participants from all walks of Columbia and Barnard life to Low Plaza and have them engage in a spot of outdoor drawing. Two collaborative drawing sessions running consecutively from noon to 4 p.m. saw artists of all levels of experience painting and sketching at free drawing stations under the guide of visual arts professors.

Professor Leeza Meksin, who led the first public drawing session at noon, explained that these installations belonged to students from a class led by Columbia visual arts faculty member Stephen Jackson. “We don’t have a BFA program, but I think a large part of our program [involves] offering classes to engage a lot of students going to CC, SEAS, Barnard, and so on,” Professor Meksin explained.

While this may have been The Big Draw’s has first appearance on Low Plaza, the faculty behind the project hopes that the public event and the spirit of creation it embodies can embed themselves into campus culture. “Columbia is not the most playful place, but when [play] happens, people jump in,” said professor Carol Becker.

An exhibition featuring artworks from The Big Draw is already scheduled for Thursday, and future The Big Draw events are already in the pipeline for upcoming semesters. That being said, Professor Becker and her school are planning beyond just The Big Draw. Specifically, they are looking uptown to the upcoming Manhattanville campus where, as Becker explained, there would be a public plaza on which to engage in the arts. “If it is a tradition, it can be a huge part of the cadence of the University,” said Meksin.

Professor Becker pointed out, that The Big Draw was so well-attended, well-received, and engaged students to such an extent that no attendee was on their phone. She saw such an event as permission to take a break and be playful, and now expresses her hope that the University community continues to be visible and participate in such events.

Some works from The Big Draw will be exhibited during a one-evening exhibition in the LeRoy Neiman Gallery on Thursday, Oct. 13, from 4 to 7 p.m.


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