Big Draw Festival: Mispillion Art League begins planning 2nd annual October event

A family paints on a canvas as part of last year’s Big Draw Festival in front of the Santa Building near Milford’s Riverwalk. Photos courtesy of Ann Lebengood and the Mispillion Art League

MILFORD — The Mispillion Art League (MAL) on Friday announced its plan to hold Milford’s second annual Big Draw Festival in October.

Although the event will look different than it did last year, festival chairwoman Rosemary Connelly said she and the rest of the MAL board are dedicated to carrying it on into the COVID-19 era.

“We can still have an event that offers kids an opportunity to make art,” Ms. Connelly said. “That’s really kind of an important thing.”

She said “people are looking for things to do for their kids,” and the month-long event “was such a huge success last year that we… wanted to keep the momentum going,” because “It wasn’t just a one-off.”

This year’s theme is “recycling and reusing and protecting our planet,” Ms. Connelly said.

Many of her project ideas are focused on “recycled egg cartons. Making critters out of recycled egg cartons and making African masks with these egg cartons,” or “making art with plastic bottle caps that we’ll save and robots from recycled cardboard.”

Although MAL is still in the early planning stages, Ms. Connelly said the festival will hopefully feature a variety of both in-person and virtual classes, workshops and other events throughout October.

“We’re hoping that we can have in-person events, as we did last year,” said Sonja Frey, MAL board member. “But October’s a long way away… so we’re trying to plan both in-person events as well as virtual events.”

Milford’s event is one of many Big Draw Festivals that take place worldwide every year, but Ms. Frey said Milford’s small-town American iteration is unique.

“It’s just making its way into the United States slowly,” Ms. Frey said. “Anybody who’s been doing it has been in big cities like Los Angeles or Washington D.C.”

She said that “Rosemary Connelly is the one who brought it to the art league.”

Ms. Connelly “discovered it,” she said, after seeing some posters while “travelling in Barcelona a couple years ago.”

In 2018 she approached MAL’s board with her idea, and the group decided to move forward.

“We brought it to Delaware and tried to get different organizations throughout the whole state involved with it last year,” Ms. Frey said.

“Last year, the Big Draw Festival was the entire month of October” and “had about seven other participating arts organizations around the state,” Ms. Connelly said.

Three women help fill in a mandala outline designed by local Milford artists at last year’s Big Draw Festival.

“Milford… had a class or workshop every day for the month of October, and every Saturday we had free events for families and kids,” she said. “We closed the street one Saturday and had sandcastles… and painted with feet in the street… The kids had a wonderful time. It was a huge success.”

The extended format that reaches beyond the visual arts community is also unique to Milford’s take on the festival, as usually Big Draw Festivals are one-day events held in one place, like a museum.

“Last year, the other thing that was really unique was we had classes and workshops in different” locations,” Ms. Connelly said. “We had something going on at the music school and the library and at the dance studio… We were involving the entire community.”

This year, she hopes to extend the festival’s reach into people’s homes.

“What we plan to do for the families and kids is put together an idea booklet with project ideas,” Ms. Connelly said. It will have “different ideas for art projects that kids and families can do at home. Then they can either send us a photograph or post it on our Facebook page or send us a photograph… so that everyone feels that they’re part of this big event.”

She said the “booklet will be available for pickup at [MAL’s gallery] and we’ll also have the ideas online so folks can just download it themselves… We’ll put together a packet of a certain amount of supplies that folks can at least get started with and then they can supplement with their own things at home.”

Ms. Frey has a lot of faith in “the power of art and how it can heal and help kids learn better and study better” She said one purpose of this event, “was to get kids interested in art and drawing, just for the sake of drawing.”

But she said it’s also about community-building.

“We have a lot of art that happens around town all the time anyway,” Ms. Frey said. “It’s an idea to get the community involved and to come out downtown.”

Those who want to stay up to date with the latest development’s on Milford’s Big Draw Festival can do so via the event’s Facebook page thebigdrawde or the dedicated link on MAL’s website at mispillionarts.org/big-draw-de/.