Monster Drawing Rally returns for its eighth year

Local artists come together for Midway Contemporary Art’s annual fundraiser.

Brenda Tran

Paint, glitter, sewing machines and computers will pack the Grain Belt Bottling House this Saturday as Midway Contemporary Art hosts its eighth annual Monster Drawing Rally. 
The fundraiser brings together over 75 visual artists working with a wide range of mediums. While some artists choose paper and pencil, others opt for paint, ink or collage.
Participants create artwork in one-hour rounds, which is then available for purchase. Proceeds from artwork sales benefit programming for Midway Contemporary Art. 
“I hear there are really good vibes about it. I assume it’s going to be fun being around creative people and helping out a really good space,” said Leslie Barlow, a local visual artist who will participate in the Monster Drawing Rally for the first time this year. 
Inspiration for the event comes from the annual Monster Drawing Rally hosted by Southern Exposure, a nonprofit arts organization in San Francisco. Megan McCready, associate director of Midway Contemporary Art, visited the rally 10 years ago while she was in graduate school. She said she was impressed with Southern Exposure’s
creative means of raising money and got permission from them to host a Monster Drawing Rally in Minneapolis. 
At its beginning, Midway’s Monster Drawing Rally featured 30 artists. Since then, the number of participating artists and visitors has steadily grown. Last year, between 450 and 500 spectators showed up to the gathering, she said.
“It was a pretty small group at first because no one really knew what I was talking about as far as what the event was. People had fun, and we continued to do it. Now we’re in our eighth year,” McCready said.
The Monster Drawing Rally brings together a diverse range of local artists, recruited through a combination of self-selection and invitation. The artist experience varies widely depending on 
medium, experience and style. Some artists have a more structured approach, while others work in a free-flowing manner. 
“I generally have a sense of what I want to work on, and I kind of let it off the cuff,” said Betsy Byers, a local visual artist. “Other artists, I think, approach it very differently.
Some come with things already started, and some don’t have any idea what they’re going to do.” 
Byers has participated in the Monster Drawing Rally seven times. Each time, she said, has been a true test of time management — although there is no minimum
requirement for pieces completed within the hour, most artists aim for two or three. The event gives visitors a glimpse of an organic studio process at a much faster pace. 
Another component of the Monster Drawing Rally is performance. Christopher Alday, another participating artist, admitted that drawing in front of a live audience is stressful.
Even though he’s in his third year of the Monster Drawing Rally, he said he never gets used to being in the limelight. 
“I often start working on the table but end up finishing in my lap under the table. … It’s an interesting pressure,” Alday said. 
Despite the constraints, artists like Alday keep coming back. The Monster Drawing Rally serves as an exciting challenge that enables artists to explore their own work and connect with one another. 
Events like the Monster Drawing Rally help keep Midway’s programming free. The organization maintains a contemporary art gallery that holds about five exhibitions a year, as well as a research library. Midway’s programming features artist, curator and designer talks focusing on emerging and underrepresented artists.
“I’m excited about the kind of people it’ll bring together, not just the artists but the people who support Midway and the arts in general,” Barlow said. “There’s a cool collaborative energy with this event, and I’m excited for the opportunity to make work alongside other artists.”