28 May 2013 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

1000 drawings

It’s an event that’s captured the imagination of artists around South Africa, and is slowly but surely extending beyond our borders to cities around the world.

The instructions for the artists are the same: draw anything, with anything, on anything A5!

1000 Drawings is creativity at its most generous. Part exhibition, part fundraiser, part something still evolving, this charity event brings together schoolchildren, homeless people, professional designers and artists, aspiring scribblers and art enthusiasts to share and value their collective voice.

For R100 a piece you can ‘discover rare original works by tomorrow’s big stars or just something beautiful to make you smile’.

Loosely based on a commercial event in New York, in 2006 the concept was adapted by professional creatives Felix Frakenberger and David Chong as a fundraiser for Paballo, a Jo'burg inner-city homeless care facility that needed a new bakkie (pick-up truck).

Artists – any artists – were asked to donate A5 drawings of anything. The plan was to sell these for R100 each at an exhibition held on the streets of Johannesburg. 

After a wildly successful first run, the event has taken on a life of its own, spreading to new countries and cities and earning itself a reputation as the event to be at for anyone working in the artistic industry in South Africa ... and giving the Loeries, one of South Africa’s best-established celebrations of the imagination, a run for its money.

In South Africa in 2013, there are two teams working on events in Jo'burg and Cape Town. During the run-up to the Night of 1000 Drawings extravaganza, these teams facilitate 'doodles', events where people can get together and draw at 'interesting and crazy places in the city', says Angus Campbell, whose company, Campbell & Campbell, oversees the logistics for the Johannesburg event, while a committee of young creatives and volunteers works tirelessly to pull everything together.

 'We (the committee) do things like find venues on the tops of buildings in Jozi where we can draw all afternoon, and organise drop-off points where people can deliver their art,' says Campbell. The instructions for the artists are the same: draw anything, with anything, on anything A5!

'Our project gives people an outlet for their creativity, unfettered by brief or client,' says Campbell, which in part explains its incredible support. 'Artists working in various genres and media get to express themselves, and importantly, contribute to and hear the stories of the charities that benefit from the money raised.'

Towards the end of October or the beginning of November, the donated art will be strung up between pillars for an astounding, immersive exhibition. 

As Campbell explains, people arrive at six o’clock in the evening to experience the art and the vibe. At 8pm they can then start buying art. 'If [artist William] Kentridge puts one in, you get a Kentridge for R100; amazing things happen and all kinds of people contribute,' he says. 

At about 9pm, the bands (renowned for being 'undiscovered' but super cool) start playing, and events like the doodle battle take place. 'We get two artists to face off, projecting their work on giant screens and watching them work to music, with the crowd deciding on the winner.'

Their aim this year is to go deeper underground than ever, to connect with those who need it most – new charities, new bands, new performers, new artists, and an inspiring venue full of new drawings.  

'It’s an amazing project for several reasons – namely, the charities we support and the fact that we work so closely with the people from these charities,' says Campbell. And for R100 a piece you can 'discover rare original works by tomorrow’s big stars or just something beautiful to make you smile'.  

Although the event has grown, Campbell attributes some of its ongoing appeal to the creative leadership of Chong: 'He made sure we kept the integrity of the project from day one. Everything is hand-drawn, the posters, the adverts etc. We keep it real and personal.'

This year’s event will be focusing on giving back to the creative community, which has supported 1000 Drawings from the start, and which Campbell suggests is often overlooked for funding. In particular, the organisers are investigating cultural workers who use art to bring about healing in communities struggling with trauma.

Final details for 2013 are still under wraps, but be on the look-out for drop-off points, doodler dates (starting in June) and main event details. Be sure to follow 1000 Drawings on Facebook, where you can see pictures of the exhibition and art from previous years.

You can also call +27 (0)11 781 0439 or email info@1000drawings.co.za.

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