Detroit artist Melissa Dettloff says the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit’s Monster Drawing Rally can be “a little bit nerve-racking,” but she’s returning to the event Friday for her fourth year in a row.

The annual fundraiser for MOCAD features 70 local artists drawing live over the course of two hourlong shifts. Attendees are free to wander the rows of artists, interacting and sometimes even joining them in creating the works. All of the drawings produced are available for sale afterwards.

For a self-described “shy and introverted” person like Dettloff, the event is an extremely counterintuitive way to approach the creative process. But she’s continued to come back since the inaugural rally three years ago.

“Drawing is sort of a personal thing for me, so it feels funny to do it in public,” she says. “But I think it’s good for me to push myself out of my comfort zone a little bit. It’s fun to talk to people and see their reactions to what you’re doing, because that’s obviously not something you get when you’re in your studio drawing by yourself.”

Augusta Morrison, who recently joined the museum staff as an education associate, planned this year’s rally. A participaing artist two years ago, she describes the rally as “a fast-paced, action-oriented visual experience.”

“It’s very high energy,” Morrison says. “You kind of have to shut out everything that’s going on around you and focus, but it still kind of puts you as an artist in a new element in the public eye.”

Given the sheer number of people in the room, the artists’ approaches vary wildly. Some focus on a single piece for their hour, while others produce multiple works. Some come in with a set idea for what they will draw during the show, while others let onlookers shape the course of their piece.

Morrison recalls one rally during which one artist created an abstract using pieces of chewing gum, inviting attendees to make their own sticky contributions to the piece.

Morrison says the works this year’s artists have proposed cover typically diverse territory.

“One person is using a projector to make short animated cycles,” she says. “Other people will be doing collaging ... Others will be doing monsters, aliens, animals, robots, vehicles.”

The inspiration for the rally came from an event of the same name at San Francisco’s Southern Exposure art collective, which advertised it as an “open source” concept to be adopted by other arts organizations.

“They kind of outlined that anyone can use this idea,” Morrison says. “It’s about inviting the community in.”

Detroit artist Dalia Reyes, who will mark her third turn at the drawing rally this year, says the opportunity is valuable and fun for all involved.

“You have to experience it for yourself if you’re a collector, if you’re an artist, if you’re just curious,” she says. “I think it’s for everybody.”

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.


Drawing Rally

6:30-9:30 p.m. Friday

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

4454 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets: $8 in advance, $10 at the door

(313) 832-6622

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