Light on Concrete: Drawsoc go from Strength to Strength

DSC_5583Image courtesy of UCD Drawsoc

In UCD for many years, it was difficult for those interested in the arts to find something for them. Many people would walk up to the ArtsSoc stand during Freshers Week asking about the arts, to be told that UCD didn’t have anything for visual arts enthusiasts. Fortunately, back in 2012, DrawSoc was created. Gaining official recognition from UCD Societies Council in April 2013, the society is now in its third official year. Arts Editor Emma Costello sat down with this year’s auditor, Laur Ryan to ask about what DrawSoc is all about.

How did DrawSoc Start?
I
t started with two students, Sean McIver and Sophia Ellis. They noticed there was a lack of visual art societies in UCD during Freshers’ Week in their first year. So, they decided what they wanted to do was start up a society! They put the word out and spread it around. Slowly, after a few weeks, people started catching on and then DrawSoc got its first committee. We spent a year trying to make the society official and did all sorts of crazy things to get there. It’s a long process to go through but it’s really rewarding when you finally get up and running. We were really lucky to have support from the Art History and Cultural Policy Department in UCD, who we still work with today. They’ve really been our backbone since we started. Before we were official, they were letting us use the Art History classrooms, of which they only had one to spare in the evenings for us to do our classes. That’s how it all began, and now we’re here!

Are you still using the Art History classroom?
We’re not! We’ve spread into campus now that we can book rooms ourselves. We’re trying to change things up, as there’s no one place in UCD that’s perfect for the different types of classes we hold. For instance, we need water for paints brushes, we might need more space for some of our bigger drawing classes, things like that. So we’ve been changing it up, which is great because using the different rooms allows people to get to see the campus, especially as so many international students are interested in the society. We’ve used rooms in Newman and pretty much all of the Student Centre. We’ve gone anywhere that makes sense for the type of class that’s being held!

What kinds of arts do you have within the society?
Even though the name says Drawsoc, we go far beyond just drawing! This semester alone, we’ve hosted various classes such as watercolour, mark making, collage, colouring therapy, and more! We also hold photography classes every second week. It’s something that grew from a small group. We used to hold a photography class every three weeks! It’s kind of slowly building up and we’re starting to get into video art as well.

Do you ever use UCD as a canvas?
We do, especially with our photography classes. We’ll go out and do photography walks and such. One photography class that gets the most attention is our lightpainting class [long exposure photography]. You basically paint with torches directed at the camera. We would use the campus for that, but have to wait until winter when it’s darker out. UCD is beautiful for things like that!

You do a lot within the arts, I’ve also noticed that your society has to be one of the most inclusive societies I’ve ever seen. You have people of all genders, race, religion, and sexuality. Was that an original aim of Drawsoc’s?
I think it’s something that seems to come with the arts, but it’s always been something that we’ve been very aware of, something we’ve wanted to make a big part of the society. We welcome anyone of any creed, colour, sexuality, and of any level of artistic experience! The idea is that we never have a member that feels uncomfortable being there for any reason. So that whether they’re drawing stick men or can do hyper-realistic paintings, that doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome to come to the classes, and that’s what makes art so accessible. If we weren’t accessible, people wouldn’t be able to enjoy art in UCD.

You’ve mentioned working with the Art History department. Do you work with other societies or groups in UCD?
This semester, we’ve worked with SVP, LGBTQ+, Arts, Dance, and English Literary societies. We also occasionally help with graphic design, in return for donations to our charity partner, Helium Arts [helium.ie]. They do fantastic work for children and teenagers in hospitals across Ireland. We’ve also had the incredible opportunity to work with UCD’s Parity Studios and the University’s Artists in Residence. This means doing workshops with the artists, visiting their studios for Culture Night, and getting to experience some of their arts output as well. We’re honoured to get to work with them from time to time! We’re all about encouraging visual art creation and appreciation on campus, but also around Dublin too. We also recently visited IADT, we do gallery tours, and we hosted an art class with NCAD graduate, Eimear Murphy.

Since DrawSocs first official year, how have the numbers changed?
In terms of membership, we’ve had the same pull every year. We’ve always been a small society, and I can’t see us getting to a large society scale. The only number you can really put on it is that our first art exhibition had 17 entries, and our exhibition last year had 35. That’s only in the space of a year!

In relation to that, so, how has recognition for the society changed?
We’ve been very proactive in trying to make ourselves more visible, especially this year. What we find is that half a semester would go by and people would only realise we existed then. So this year, we started off in Orientation Week, where we did a chalk display outside the James Joyce Library. That’s how we let Freshers know that we were there. We did it when the tours were on, so that people would walk past and see us. This allowed them to stop and talk to us to learn more about art in UCD. It worked really well for us, because when you go into the Freshers tent and there’s so many people around, you miss half the societies that are there. It’s just the way it goes! You’d have to go back every day to learn about everything. Recognition is something we try really hard to do, so we’ve been putting out some videos so people can get a feel of what the society is like before they even go to one of our classes. We put up photos of our classes every week as well.

Where would you be able to find these photos and videos?
You can find them on our Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

You’re on tumblr?!
We pretty much started out on tumblr! We’ve always had a tumblr. It’s really great for our art exhibitions and things like that. It’s where we started! When we started doing our classes, we’d put up short tutorials on it, we’d re-blog things like tips on how to draw faces and such. Everything from day one is still there!

How can people contact the society and get involved?
We’re always available on our social media, particularly on Facebook. We’ve had people message us on tumblr and commenting on Instagram asking to come to a class! Generally, you can find someone walking around campus in a DrawSoc hoodie. We’ve had people stop us asking about DrawSoc and how to join. We hold classes every Tuesday from 5pm to 7pm – only the room changes. You can find out about what classes are on, and in what rooms, on our Facebook page!

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