Big Draw Chicago is a new kind of art festival for families

Ever heard your child declare in frustration: “I can’t draw!” A dozen years ago, a group in the United Kingdom set out to abolish that sentence from people’s vocabulary. The result was a festival that now has reached international proportions and that encourages everyone-young and old-to pick up a pencil (or crayon or even bicycle wheel) and just get drawing.

This year, for the first time, the festival also will be held in Chicago. Big Draw Chicago is for drawers and non-drawers of all ages and will run weekdays/nights and weekends in neighborhoods across the city throughout October.

“Drawing is such an easy, friendly, nonthreatening way to engage people. When you put materials in front of them, they’ll start drawing,” says Elory Rozner, producer of the Chicago event. “Drawing is a tool for thinking and self-expression and then sharing. It’s fun to show your work and see others work.”

The month-long event also is designed to bring people into cultural institutions they might not have visited otherwise. For example, the Newberry Library, not generally considered a family destination, is hosting one of the family events.

“Drawing is a wonderful way for them to bring new audiences in, so it offers cultural institutions something as well as the participants,” Rozner says.

The majority of the events are free and the official kickoff is 1-4 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Other events include using wheels on a tricycle to draw at the Chicago Children’s Museum and a family sketch scavenger hunt at the Field Museum. Different methods of drawing and different tools will be featured at the various institutions. There are also adults-only events for parents who want a night out to explore their own creative side.

“We’re trying to bring people out to institutions to make informal art and it should be really fun and laidback and not intimidating,” Rozner says.

Visit for program descriptions, dates, locations and participating organizations and artists. Most programs are drop-in, but a few do have limited space and require pre-registration.

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