On a recent Wednesday night in Uptown Oakland, friends Robert and Grace (who only gave their first names) are giggling over their collaborative masterpiece. “We drew a bucket of chicken, and a roller skate – a roller skating bucket of chicken. Also, a dinosaur with a hat and butterfly wings,” said Robert.
Robert is a first timer at Oakland Drink & Draw, a weekly drawing (and boozing) party at The New Parkway, a cinema-cum-community space steps from the city’s Auto Row. Once a week for the past four years, professionals and casual doodlers have gotten together on the mezzanine to hang out, have a drink, and draw. Robert credits his beer (“a Heffeweizen”) for loosening up his creativity: “I had a small amount of doodles down here, but it made me come up with more things to draw. I knew this beer would help me do that.”
Oakland Drink & Draw is the brainchild of professional artists Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine. Kott says they started the evening as a “way to be encouraged to simply draw more.” They hosted the event at Café Van Kleef for their first year, but eventually moved to The New Parkway after the movie theater invited them to host there. “We really liked the space, and the amount of room and lighting we were afforded,” says Kott.
While a movie theater and a drawing party may seem like an odd coupling, the founder of The New Parkway, J Moses Ceaser, says that events like Oakland Drink & Draw are central to their philosophy as a community space. “The New Parkway is first and foremost a community, so we love hosting any activities that connect people,” says Ceaser. And there’s an added layer to their collaboration: a monthly drawing contest based on the cult movies showing at the Parkway.
On this night, the crowd is a mix of Oakland Drink & Draw newbies and veterans, like Vincent Kukua, a professional production artist at Image Comics. Kukua is a longtime attendee of the Drink & Draw who was transformed from drawing party skeptic to believer. “I’ve always thought that doing these things like Drink & Draw are kind of weird, because all artists are a little isolated,” Kukua said. But he found that the Drink & Draw helped him build community with other local artists, and got them to engage with each other’s work. “It’s nice to see other people’s drawings and see what other people are about,” Kukua added.
Oakland Drink & Draw is one of the only free drawing nights in the area that is open to anyone regardless of experience, Lynn says. Newcomers are encouraged to make use of the community drawing supply shelf, which is chock-full of donated drawing tools. Supplies are available to anyone who needs them. Crayons, pastels, watercolors, drawing pads have all been donated by Kott and DeVine, or generous regulars.
Ceaser is enthusiastic about the community impact of events like the Drink & Draw. “Watching films is great,” he says “but providing an opportunity for our patrons to make connections to their own lives is the real value add.”