Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School offers live entertainment

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Brittany Nader

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School offers a creative alternative to a typical college night out. Hosting open drawing events each month, it allows artists 18 and over to enter a bar atmosphere filled with entertainment and free prizes.

Amateurs and professionals alike set up camp in locations such as downtown Akron’s Musica and draw live models for three hours. Subjects include burlesque dancers, underground performers and musical acts. Dr. Sketchy’s provides a unique setting for students to develop their art, whether that is painting, drawing, tattoo design or jewelry-making, according to Dr. Sketchy’s founder, artist Molly Crabapple.

Crabapple said she opened the Anti-Art School in 2005 with only one location, in New York City. Since its inception, it has expanded to over 110 branches worldwide, including Akron.

The atmosphere of Dr. Sketchy’s events is reminiscent of 1930s burlesque clubs with a creative, modern twist. Lavish decor is locally created and placed upon the stage at whichever location the Anti-Art School inhabits for each event. Models are dressed in extravagant costumes and dance or pose upon the stage. Artists begin sketching the models as music roars and drinks are served.

“We take life-drawing out of the sterile classroom environment and bring it into a more theatrical presence,” said “Dr.” Bill Lynn, owner of the Dr. Sketchy’s Akron branch. “Much like theater, we can take Dr. Sketchy’s most anywhere, but we prefer locations that would have a stage, some great sound and dynamic lighting.”

Events have taken place in Akron hotspots that cater to the college-aged crowd. The Akron Art Museum, free for students with a college ID, constructed a stage in the main lobby where costumed models posed for a sizable group of young artists last year.

“Valentine’s With Venus”

The Lounge will host “Valentine’s With Venus,” a Dr. Sketchy’s event, Feb. 9. With its dance floor and cheap drinks, The Lounge appeals to those looking for a fun place to unwind and inspire some creative energy.

Jim Lightcap, junior visual communication design major, said he plans to fit a night at Dr. Sketchy’s into his busy schedule.

“Being a VCD major, I’m not necessarily a person who has free time,” Lightcap said. “But (drawing at Dr. Sketchy’s) isn’t at 10 in the morning. The models don’t fall asleep.”

The appeal of drawing late at night, when most college students are wide awake and ready for fun, is both practical for creative students and enjoyable for those craving a few drinks and live entertainment.

“Dr. Sketchy’s is perfect for collegiate art students because it provides a place to go and continue building on their drawing skills,” Lynn said. “(It also) provides them a means to meet other artists in the community.”

Each session at the Anti-Art School begins with 30-minute warm-ups for the artists and model.

Sessions then expand to longer poses and more experimentation and refinement by the so-called “art monkeys” who attend.

“I want to bring my sketchbook to start, then get into more crazy media,” Lightcap said.

Artists are encouraged to bring any supplies they wish, even including homework assignments for drawing or illustration classes. The only art form that is prohibited at Dr. Sketchy’s is photography.

“Many branches have their own official photographers,” Crabapple said. “No branch wants their sessions to devolve into 50 creepy men shooting cell phone photos (of the models).”

Students don’t just have to be artists to be involved in the creative cabaret. Dr. Sketchy’s is always looking for new, diverse models and performers for future events.

Lynn said the criteria for selecting models is based both on the ability to hold a fantastic pose and having an interesting history or background.

“We like to provide the artists with ever-inspiring events with models like roller derby girls, ballerinas, belly dancers, exotic performers, carnival freaks, burlesque beauties and whatever, or whoever, may come our way,” Lynn said.

Interested models must be 18 or older and should contact Bill Lynn at [email protected]

“Those who come to Sketchy’s are encouraged to applaud and hoot and holler and let the model know that they are highly appreciated, as they are not just the subject of form, but the muse,” Lynn said.

Lynn said he spends time constructing new and exciting themes for each event to encourage diversity and entertainment for the artists; this allows him to dream up cool props and simple sets.

“Themes are decided in various ways,” Lynn said. “Models have made suggestions, and I welcome suggestions from the artists as well. And much like a movie soundtrack, I take the theme and try to assemble a collection of music that will enhance the theme for the evening.”

Past event themes include Steampunk, Halloween, winter holidays and the ever-popular burlesque.

Lynn said he gets excited about rewarding artists for their hard work with prizes at the end of the night. “Art monkeys” have the chance to show off the work made at the event and go home with what he and Crabapple call “shwag.”

“The prizes that we give are those provided by sponsors both globally and locally,” Lynn said. These sponsors include What Katie Did lingerie, Baby Tattoo Books and the NEO Roller Derby. Lynn said he is always looking for new sponsors who want to contribute prizes to artists.

Students from all backgrounds and majors can express themselves creatively at the Anti-Art School without feeling the pressure of grades, professors or peer competition.

Fashion designers can meet with Lynn and the models to design costumes for upcoming events. Musicians could gain exposure by having their latest recording played to hype the crowd and performers. Illustrators, painters, designers and the like could have their work displayed in Akron galleries to gain new appreciators or even jobs.

“The main goal of Dr. Sketchy’s, for myself, is to provide a venue where artists can gather, have fun, meet one another and help build the local artistic communities,” Lynn said.

Contact Brittany Nader at [email protected].