104 Cre­ative Space

Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing, NYC.

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You’ll find Drafts­men’s Congress on the fourth floor of New York’s New Mu­seum. Con­ceived by ex­per­i­men­tal Pol­ish artist Paweł Althamer, the col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­hibit was a white space that vis­i­tors have slowly but surely cov­ered with draw­ings and paint­ings. Lo­cal art group Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing was re­cently asked to leave its mark on the in­stal­la­tion, and duly obliged.

Tom Ko­val­ski, with Jesse Richards as­sist­ing, founded the group in 2007. Jesse has since taken over or­gan­is­ing du­ties, but its orig­i­nal ethos re­mains: to pro­vide artists – whether ab­so­lute be­gin­ner or distin­guished pro – a place to draw reg­u­larly, in­ex­pen­sively and with­out pres­sure.

There are no for­mal cri­tiques. Just an in­for­mal “at­mos­phere of mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion,” Jesse says. People talk. Share ideas. Make friends. Feel like they’re part of some­thing.

“I find artists are ex­tremely shy and ner­vous and em­bar­rassed about the qual­ity of their work,” the or­gan­iser ex­plains. “It’s ir­ra­tional, and its causes are fas­ci­nat­ing to ru­mi­nate on. But, on a prac­ti­cal level, it pre­vents many people from at­tend­ing any­thing. A lot of my time is spent re­as­sur­ing people that we are a non-judge­men­tal com­mu­nity, and that no one minds if they are the worst artists in the world – and that the con­cept of best or worst in ex­pres­sive art doesn’t even make any sense.”

Jesse is pas­sion­ate about New York City and what he likes to de­scribe as its in­nu­mer­able “nooks and se­crets, sur­pris­ing his­tory, stun­ning ar­chi­tec­ture and beau­ti­ful parks”. But be­fore Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing there were hardly any groups ded­i­cated solely to draw­ing the city’s land­scape. The get-to­gether was a di­rect re­sponse to this.

How­ever, the group has grad­u­ally be­come a vic­tim of its own suc­cess. Once it could sneak into parks and mu­se­ums un­no­ticed. Now it turns up in such num­bers that ar­range­ments must be made well in ad­vance. Jesse isn’t com­plain­ing. “We’re now the largest art meet-up in the world, and ev­ery day more and more people join the group, so I only see it con­tin­u­ing to grow and ex­pand.”

Drafts­men’s Congress: an in­stal­la­tion by Pol­ish artist Paweł Althamer, at New York’s New Mu­seum. The two great pas­sions in Jesse Richards’ life are art and New York, which he com­bines as or­gan­iser of the Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing group.

The mem­bers of Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing jumped at the chance to pay a visit to Drafts­men’s Congress. In­cred­i­bly, Drafts­men’s Congress

was once en­tirely white space – un­til vis­i­tors and art groups were

in­vited in to dec­o­rate .

Whether pro artist or fledg­ling doo­dler, all are wel­come to make their mark

on this unique in­stal­la­tion. Kerri, from Staten Is­land, work­ing on a rather rak­ish-look­ing dog. Anika, who likes to work in mul­ti­ple me­dia, tak­ing it to the walls. Mercedes Vega Vil­lar says that

Cen­tral Park Sketch­ing is the per­fect ex­cuse to in­dulge her love

of draw­ing. Deb­o­rah Gra­ham stands proudly by her fin­ished work. All smiles from Cheri Dan­nels as she works on her colourful ad­di­tion to the ex­hibit .

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