MFA drawing event aims to increase art accessibility


Sasha Shrestha

People attend the MFA for the “Drawing in the Galleries” event every Wednesday night.

Sasha Shrestha, news correspondent

While 20 people silently sketched out the live model in the gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Elsa Zhao was not sketching hers as others were.

Instead, she decided to sketch one of the Rococo-style portraits in the Ann and William Elfers Gallery. The gallery holds magnificent works like Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s “Carved Panel(1770) and Claude-André Deseine’s “Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau(1791)

“I can’t draw that [live] model very well, so I came over here,” said Zhao, sketching Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s painting, “Portrait of a Young Woman” (1797), following the contours of the painted girl with her own pencil. Sometimes you draw good or bad depending on if you find the model attractive. If you don’t feel anything towards her, you can never draw her well.” 

Every Wednesday night from 6-9 p.m., artists of all ages and skill levels flock to the Museum of Fine Arts, or MFA, to participate in the free “Drawing in the Galleries” event. 

Visitors are welcome to pick up supplies and draw from live models or artworks in the galleries. Everything is provided for participants, from necessary materials to a drawing instructor that is available throughout the night. 

Zhao lives in Brookline but makes the trip to the MFA twice a week, taking advantage of the free drawing event every Wednesday night. 

“I’m not a student, but I’m kind of a student because you should learn forever,” she said. 

“Drawing in the Galleries” is just one of many events hosted by the MFA to promote accessibility of art and education. The event is open to everyone and provides a judgement-free space for practice, skill building or even just for fun. It is a great opportunity for people looking to get into sketching or to practice on a live model.

“It’s intimidating but seeing the range [of skills] is very comforting,” said Boston local Sofia Cabanas, an elementary school art teacher and frequent attendee. 

This week Cabanas brought her friend Caleb Simone, a graduate student at Simmons University. Simone mentioned how accessible the program is for anyone interested in participating. 

“You come in, you tell them you want free tickets to the drawing thing and it’s in a different gallery with a different model every week,” Simone said. “I will definitely be coming back.” 

The MFA strives to encourage more active involvement in the arts. By promoting programs that are open to anyone and everyone, the exclusivity of the art world dissolves. 

“The reality is that art is for the elite,” said Mahesh Viswanathan, a greentech entrepreneur attending his first drawing event. “It always has been. It’s always been the really rich people who sponsor the best artist. So there is that serious professional part of it, but then there’s the part where anyone and everyone can make art. And everyone should.”

Participating in the arts can seem out of reach based on the costliness of museum tickets or art supplies. Elizabeth, who declined to provide her last name, said has been a facilitator for the MFA for the last 14 years.

“To get into the arts, just find something beautiful that you love. Anything that fits your soul,” she said as she picked up an eraser and handed it to the newest participant of the event. “You don’t need much to be an artist, all I had was a pen.”

Clarissa Yingling moved to Boston five years ago and now has a membership at the MFA. For her,  art museums were less accessible growing up. 

“I’ve always really liked going to art museums,” she said. “As a kid I didn’t get to go to them very often just because I didn’t live in a big city, so I mostly just looked at art in books.” 

Art programs like “Drawing in the Galleries” offer experiential learning opportunities for the community without any cost. The MFA provides a space that sparks creativity and inspires artists of all experiences.