You’ll find Draftsmen’s Congress on the fourth floor of New York’s New Museum. Conceived by experimental Polish artist Paweł Althamer, the collaborative exhibit was a white space that visitors have slowly but surely covered with drawings and paintings.
Local art group Central Park Sketching was recently asked to leave its mark on the installation, and duly obliged.
Tom Kovalski, with Jesse Richards assisting, founded the group in 2007. Jesse has since taken over organising duties, but its original ethos remains: to provide artists – whether absolute beginner or distinguished pro – a place to draw regularly, inexpensively and without pressure.
There are no formal critiques. Just an informal "atmosphere of mutual appreciation," Jesse says. "People talk. Share ideas. Make friends. Feel like they’re part of something.
"I find artists are extremely shy and nervous and embarrassed about the quality of their work," the organiser explains. "It's irrational, and its causes are fascinating to ruminate on. But, on a practical level, it prevents many people from attending anything.
"A lot of my time is spent reassuring people that we are a non-judgemental community, and that no one minds if they are the worst artists in the world – and that the concept of best or worst in expressive art doesn't even make any sense."
Jesse is passionate about New York City and what he likes to describe as its innumerable "nooks and secrets, surprising history, stunning architecture and beautiful parks". But before Central Park Sketching there were hardly any groups dedicated solely to drawing the city's landscape. The get-together was a direct response to this.
However, the group has gradually become a victim of its own success. Once it could sneak into parks and museums unnoticed. Now it turns up in such numbers that arrangements must be made well in advance. But Jesse isn't complaining. "We're now the largest art meet-up in the world, and every day more and more people join the group, so I only see it continuing to grow and expand."
Next page: Check out Central Park Sketching's all-out assault on Draftsmen's Congress...