In a basement studio at the School of Art on Monday night, an assortment of nocturnal artists stood near haphazardly placed easels. They waited for models to assume their poses, rolling pieces of charcoal between their fingers, chatting with neighbors and tapping their feet to the new-age music playing from a small radio in the corner.
They gather in the School of Art every Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. for “Open Drawing,” hosted by Samuel Messer, Associate Dean of the School of Art. Free of charge and open to people of all ages, the class offers a casual environment, participants said, for Yalies and New Haven residents to come and sketch. But after four years of being offered, attendance is still low.
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Messer said he created the class for “non-art students or students who don’t have the time to take an actual art class.” He wanted to provide a “relaxed situation where anyone could come and draw, without pressure of assignment, ego or grades.”
Teaching assistant Natalie Westbrook ART ’10 echoed Messer’s sentiments.
“We typically start with short poses so you can get used to it and then move to longer poses,” Westbrook explained.
At the front of the room sat a makeshift rollaway bed with brightly colored blankets casually strewn across. Two nude models stepped onto the scene and assumed their first poses: one sank down into a crouch while the other lounged across the bed.
Westbrook smiled reassuringly and the class began.
Messer said he hopes the class will give students an opportunity to explore a part of their intellects that often goes untended in an academic environment like Yale.
“I strongly believe in the importance of the visual arts as a critical component to anyone’s life and educational experience,” Messer said in an e-mail last week. “Almost everyone made ‘art’ in their youth but over time for many reasons most people stop. Actually making and looking is a great thing in itself.”
He walked between the easels offering advice when people asked, observing and drawing sketches of his own. All around the room, charcoal danced across the huge off-white sheets of paper as lines turned into recognizable figures.
Around 10 people were at the class last Monday, but when it is not midterm season, up to 15 people attend, Messer said. This, however, falls short of his hopes: He said he would love to have at least 25 artists each week.
But three students interviewed said they are too busy with classes, studying and extracurricular activities to give up a Monday night. With the class generally publicized via e-mail and word-of-mouth, some simply don’t know it exists.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Camila Panama ’11 said. “It sounds mysterious. Tell me more.”
In fact, the majority of the people there were not undergraduates, and some were not even Yale students. Hans Howland, a Senior Architect and Project Manager for Yale and a third-time visitor to the class, said he was looking for a casual art class when he stumbled upon Messer’s project in his research.
“I haven’t drawn for years,” he said, during a five-minute break after an hour of sketching. “I just wanted to do something different and use another part of my brain.”
Santiago Correa ’12, who frequented arts classes as a high school student, experienced the open drawing session for his first time.
“I think it’s a great way to do art without having a huge time commitment,” Correa said.
Even a pre-frosh, Kevin McGinnis, attended class one Monday. He enjoyed the class, saying that the “friendly and welcoming environment made it a good experience.” Although he has not taken an art class since 8th grade, McGinnis said, Messer was “ready to meet me at my level.”
The number of attendees may be lower than he would like, but Messer is optimistic about the sessions’ future.
“I feel if [students] realize it is a stress-free, leave your ego at the door, community drawing experience maybe they will come,” he said.
The class will meet regularly on Mondays.