Don’t you love when you see an idea on social media and know it will work for your site?  The Peabody Essex Museum participates in the UK program, “The Big Draw.”  Having read about their experience, I was motivated to try it at the Indiana Historical Society and #bigdrawindy was born in October 2014!

Participants in IHS The Big Draw

On a Friday night and all day on Saturday we had more than 200 people join us to draw in a variety of ways.  But, wanting to stay close to who we are, we developed some activities that allowed visitors to interact with our collection in new ways.  The Still Life area included objects from past exhibits.  There was a section where we used cropped copies of our photographs and invited visitors to “finish the drawing” in a realistic or other way.  We partnered with a local pottery shop that created Indiana-shaped ornaments people could color on and take with them.  BigCar partnered with us and people were part of developing an installation for the TEDxIndianapolis event the following week.  We invited visitors to create part of a large scale mural on Indiana.

What were the results?  We saw a very diverse audience here — from age to ethnicity to singles and families.  People returned for visits to the museum itself and attended later programs.  The feedback forms were filled with very positive comments, and included suggestions on how to grow the program next year (“have actual artists here teaching”). You’ve got to love a program in which people leave wanting to return! New connections were made thanks to the diverse attendance.  For example, a local youth homeless shelter visited due to the free evening program for a social event. We’ve since partnered with them to provide safe programs that meet the socialization needs of the kids.

The program sparked a lot of creativity and people were engaged for hours. It brought multiple departments together as we implemented the program and allowed some really talented staff members to shine (I’m not allowed to say I can’t draw, but it’s an outside my comfort area thing). Combining art and history was that magical combination of learning and free expression.  What about your institution?  How have you integrated the arts?  Tell us in the comments so we can share (and steal) more great ideas!