The Night of Art and Writing returns to the UI Museum of Natural History

UI’s Natural History Museum has reintroduced “Art & Write Night,” a program that invites artists and writers into the space to use the museum as inspiration. Upon returning after COVID-19 related cancellations, Art & Write Night will take place on the first Friday of every month until the end of the semester.

Daniel McGregor-Huyer

A pencil and notebook are seen at the Macbride Hall Museum of Natural History on February 17, 2022.

On the first Friday of every month, after the nightly closing of the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, not everyone leaves.

The museum has reintroduced its Art & Write Night, a program where artists can visit the museum’s Bird Hall or Mammal Hall after hours and use its collections as inspiration for their writing or drawing.

The first Art & Write Night took place on February 4, and the program will recur the first Friday of each month from 6-8 p.m. until the end of the semester.

COVID-19 put Art & Write Night on hiatus in the spring of 2020, but the program has returned with some changes. Education and Engagement Director Carolina Kaufman wanted to introduce optional writing and sketching prompts and use the last 20 minutes of the event for sharing.

“I think it helps some people have a starting point, so instead of handing them a clean sheet, here’s something that you can kind of, you know, act as a springboard for inspiration,” Kaufman said. . “Even for someone who is a professional or considered very well trained, these are exercises – they are just for fun and to help clear your mind.”

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Upon entering the Bird Hall, attendees will find a table filled with invites, paper, crayons, and other materials useful for the night’s activities. There are chairs scattered around the lobby for guests to sit on while they create.

Jessica Smith, communications coordinator for Pentacrest Museums, said that while the museum is marketing the event to students, anyone can join.

“In the past, we have welcomed visitors of all ages, levels, skills and backgrounds who come alone, on a date, in a small group or in a class,” Smith wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily. “The more varied our customers, the richer the experience for all.”

It is clear that young audiences are more than happy to enjoy the event. At 6:30 p.m., on the museum’s last writing night, the halls were filled with people – from students to parents and their children, to unaccompanied artists drawing solo.

Cassidy Pekarek, a major in English and creative writing and art history and a minor in studio art, serves on the project’s student advisory board. She said she heard about the event via email during the pandemic and then interviewed to join the student advisory team. She noted that being part of the project has been a great way to reconnect with the museum since the COVID-19 closures.

“I really like seeing all the really nice exhibits and dioramas that they’re building,” she said. “I think it’s such a cool opportunity to be able to look behind the scenes and see the collections.”

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