Scattered across the white walls of the Beasley Gallery are works of unique art ranging from portraits of Godzilla to phrases in the Navajo language. In this gallery, nothing is off-limits. NAU students have the opportunity to be a part of an art exhibit on campus. Located inside the Performing and Fine Arts Building, the gallery is now a room filled with dozens of drawings done by everyday NAU students. Throughout September, students can come to the gallery and draw whatever they want in an annual Wall Draw.
Since 2010, gallery coordinator Christoper Taylor has been inviting people to draw on the gallery walls. Taylor started this event as a way for new and returning students to express creativity and to have an inclusive environment for all community members.
“Drawing is the most democratic form of art making,” Taylor said. “Virtually anyone can do it … and for most people, they’ve been doing it since they were kids. This exhibition is a way to test those skills as a community.”
Taylor created a space where anyone can be an artist and display their work in a gallery. People may paint whatever their hearts desire, but only with black paint for the purpose of uniformity.
He also placed brown paper above and below the wall as a template. The paper underneath is placed in unique patterns that resemble mountains and valleys to create personality. During the final display, the paper is removed to reveal a singular art piece. He also teaches visitors how to properly use water-based paint and the differences between brushes.
He said the first people that arrive to draw are usually the ones to set the trend of future drawings, and this year a lot of the illustrations are text-driven, with quotes and phrases lining the wall. The early birds get as much space as they want to use, and Taylor said it is interesting to see subsequent drawings get smaller. Some people spend hours perfecting every detail, while others come and go.
The exhibit is aimed to welcome new students and allow them to come out of their comfort zone by having an exhibit that isn’t intimidating.
“I wanted this event to challenge what people think a gallery can be,” Taylor said. “This space is positive and welcoming, and that is how all galleries should be. Some people have the idea that art is only for certain people, but it is for everyone.”
Each year, the exhibit has a great turnout, Taylor said, with many people interacting with one other and the art on the wall. Every year, some of Taylor’s former students attend with their families to add to the display. Some NAU professors have even brought their classes to the gallery.
Freshman Rochelle Cardenas came to the event to express herself. Cardenas said she usually just sketches, but she had no idea her painting would come out as good as she thought it did.
Over several hours, she painted two trees in a forest — one standing straight up and the other cut in half. She called the piece “Eye of the Forest.” Cardenas said it represents people, and how one person can be thriving while another can be struggling in the same environment.
She clarified this by saying two people can be in the same class, but one person can struggle more than the other. She also highlighted the importance of offering support to other people.
“Being here helped me see that art can be anything and everything,” Cardenas said. “Art can be realistic drawings or just quotes, and it is still all beautiful.”
Sophomore Britney Weaver said she finds the gallery to be an outlet for relieving stress.
“The beginning of the semester can be challenging,” Weaver said. “I’m not an artist, but I thought painting could help get my mind off things.”
She painted a simple sun as a way to show herself and others that there is always a brighter side to things.
“Being in the gallery showed me that everyone has a story to tell or an idea to get across,” Weaver said. “It’s great to see them physically on a wall. This is one of the rare instances where so many people can share one thing peacefully.”
When the event is over, Taylor will paint over the drawings and wait for next year’s new drawings. He said he is fascinated by the fact that there are years of drawings in the wall.
The final day to paint on the wall will be Sept. 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the reveal reception will be Sept. 27 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Anyone interested in more Beasley Gallery events can visit their website for more information.