Grab a brush! Rice to host participatory public art project

Members of the Rice University and Greater Houston communities will have the chance to ink the walls of the Rice Media Center this month. The university will host the internationally known Sumi Ink Club for a participatory public art project at the university Feb. 15, 17 and 18. Students, faculty and staff are invited to join Los Angeles-based artists in creating a drawing painted with brush and ink on the gallery walls of the center throughout the three days.

Anyone can participate from 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 15, noon to 4 p.m. Feb. 17 and 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Rice Media Center’s Visual and Dramatic Arts Main Gallery. Ink and brushes will be provided and all ages and skill levels are invited. No previous drawing experience is required. The finished project will be unveiled as an exhibition at a public reception at 6 p.m. Feb. 19. The exhibition will close March 21. In conjunction with the exhibition, a drawing symposium featuring artists, scholars and curators will be held March 20 at the Media Center.

The Sumi Ink Club was established in 2005 in Los Angeles by Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck. The club produces work cooperatively in open-to-the-public meetings, which can be organized by anyone at any time. In each of its permutations, the club uses collaborative drawing as a means to open and fortify social interactions, Rara and Fischbeck said. “Using common materials and a few simple guidelines, Sumi Ink Club meetings provide a platform for all styles and skill levels to combine into a cohesive image,” they said. “Our hope is that the overall image we create over the course of our visit will represent everyone who participates and the conversations and exchanges we have during the meetings.”

An additional component – drawings directly made on the exhibition space’s windows – should engage people wandering by outside in conversation.

Rice Assistant Professor of Visual and Dramatic Arts Natasha Bowdoin brought the Sumi Ink Club to Houston with the help of a grant from the university’s Arts Initiatives Fund, which was created to stimulate experimentation and collaboration in creativity and the arts across the entire campus.

“I proposed to bring the Sumi Ink Club to Rice because they embody this collaborative spirit of public art,” Bowdoin said. “An open-minded view as to what art can be lies at the very core of their project. What is exciting about this project is the connections it proposes to make, not just within the art community, but across campus involving other disciplines and bringing in people from all over the city, instilling the notion that anyone can draw. Their project forges unexpected connections and new possibilities of how art can be made, what it can look like and who can be a maker.”

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.