Big Draw Festival ties art community together

Cathy Walls, left, and Rosemary Connelly, of the Mispillion Art League, will be handing out art kits and other goodies in connection with the Big Draw Festival DE Saturday at the Riverwalk Farmers Market. (Submitted photo/Robert J. Neary)

MILFORD — Unlike last year’s inaugural Big Draw Festival DE, this year won’t see folks drawing, designing artwork and fanciful creations throughout the streets of Milford. The ongoing pandemic put the brakes on that this year. But art will still be celebrated nonetheless.

The second annual Big Draw is a go this month with plenty of fun activities, although they will be more home-based in 2020.

“We were charging ahead at the beginning of the year, and then, once we realized we weren’t going to be able to do the big live event like we did last year, we still didn’t want to cancel. We just thought, ‘Everybody’s canceling everything. But what can we do as artists? We ought to be able to think outside the box, be creative and come up with some way to offer an arts experience for the community even in light of this pandemic,’” said festival director Rosemary Connelly.

The result is this year’s festival with the theme of “A Climate of Change,” which puts an emphasis on using art to explore recycling, reusing and protecting the planet.

The month will be filled with classes at the Mispillion Art League, plus a raft of activities in which the whole family can partake.

“Last year, we had a month of classes, and then, every Saturday, we had outdoor events with families and kids and artists and nonartists. And we closed the street, and we had art activities and stuff. So this year, we are still having classes in what we call our annex,” Ms. Connelly said.

“And it is large enough for us to space tables out far enough, so everyone has their own table, and everything’s cleaned before and after and disinfected and prepared, so that people can be far enough apart. We’re limited to 12 (students). Obviously, we were able to have more people last year, but we’re limited to that many this year.

“Everyone has their own table, they wear masks, and the instructor wears a mask, and all of the safety precautions are in place.”

While the activities are free, the classes are fee-based with some as low as $10. Many stick to the theme of the environment and reusing objects and are available for both young and old.

For more information on classes, visit the Mispillion Art League’s website at

This Saturday, the Mispillion Art League will be giving away free art kits (while supplies last) as part of the Big Draw Festival. The art kits will be given away from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. next to the Riverwalk Farmers Market on South Walnut Street.

A cardboard replica of the Dolce eatery in Milford made by Rosemary Connelly.

The kit contains a bilingual Idea Book, with over a dozen art projects that can be made at home, as well as some starter supplies.

“We have put together about a dozen art projects using recycled materials that can be done in the safety of your own home, and then, what we’re asking is that if you’ve completed one of these projects, take a picture of it and post it on our Facebook page and feel like you’re part of this festival,” Ms. Connelly said.

Budding artists can create a robot out of recycled materials, make a picture or an image using plastic bottle caps, make a project out of used buttons and much more.

If you miss out on Saturday, the Idea Books will also be on the art league’s website.

Also included in Saturday’s bundle is a bilingual Mispillion Riverwalk booklet. Young and old can follow along to see and learn about local wildlife on land and in the water. Folks are encouraged to carry their sketchbooks and/or cameras and make some art along the way. A sketchbook and pencils are also included.

Along with MAL, the city of Milford will be providing educational materials for children, including a coloring book, crayons, stickers and more, all centered around reducing, reusing, recycling and respecting our environment. The Big Draw Art Kit and the city of Milford materials will be packaged in a reusable bag.

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority and the DuPont Nature Center will also be providing educational materials Saturday. Additionally, the Milford Public Library will be offering socially distanced art activities for kids and teens in the amphitheater area of the library.

A Recyclatron Robot by C. Mercedes Walls.

Also as part of the Big Draw Festival, the MAL is inviting artists, nonartists, families and kids to help them build a cardboard city.

Build something real or imagined. Creations can then be brought to the art league for display through December.

Videos will be on the art league’s Facebook page as the city grows.

“We’re inviting members of the community and everyone is welcome to take a cardboard box and make a building, make a house, It can be your house, It can be a pretend house It can be a store that’s in town or some business or something completely out of your imagination like a space station. It can be anything. And then bring it to us and we will be incorporating all of these different buildings into our cardboard city. So we’re really jazzed about it, We just think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Ms. Connelly said.

“And then the artwork will be at the Art League Wednesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. And so, people with their masks can come in and see this as it begins to grow. And will we have it up until about December. We haven’t really given an end date yet but it will be up for a while and folks can come in and see it. We’re also going to be posting photos and taking some videos and sharing it with the community on Facebook.

A cardboard art factory made by Michael Fleishman.

“So, even though we can’t gather together, it’s still about community. It’s about providing an arts experience for the whole community just to feel part of.”

The Big Draw bills itself as the world’s biggest celebration of drawing. It started in the United Kingdom in 2000 and now boasts over 25 participating countries.

Ms. Connelly said she was very gratified by the response the festival got last year in its first try.

“We were thrilled. Just to see the joy on the faces of these kids doing all these different things. They were writing on the sidewalks with chalk, and they were painting with their feet in the street, and we had a big canvas that everyone could just come paint on and painting pumpkins at the farmers market and just all kinds of fun art,” she said.

“It brought them back week after week. They just wanted to know what we were doing next week. Yeah, it was extremely rewarding.”

Ms. Connelly said the Big Draw means a lot to her and the community.

“It’s all about really encouraging people to make art and to see that you don’t have to be a super artist to enjoy making art. It’s the process that’s important than just the doing of it. So it sort of allows you to escape from whatever stresses — and we have so many right now. It’s a good way to just forget about all that stuff for a while and get lost in making something that you can stand back and say, ‘Well, there wasn’t anything there and now look what I’ve made.’ And it’s just fun,” she said.

“It’s good for the mind and the spirit and your health, as well. That’s our goal — to sort of spread the word of how good art is for you.”

Learn about Big Draw classes and activities by visiting or

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at

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