When committees make decisions on the dispersal of grant money, there is always the hope that this little bit of money will lead to some greater good for the community. Who could ever have predicted that a little grant given to the Malden Sketch Group 20 years ago would have led to one of the longest lasting drawing groups in the whole Boston area?
Nunzio Luca was there at the very beginning. Fred Seager, also one of the founders remembers, “I had a great deal of respect for him and consider him as a mentor. He was a much admired head of the Malden High School Art Department for years, and was a wonderful artist and good friend.”
Nunzio and Fred decided to get a life drawing group together and they set out to find a space.
“We were fortunate also to have the early support of the Malden Arts Council in the grant process, Niecie Degan and Nana Goldberg were facilitators of the cultural center building, an old fire station on Pearl Street. It housed elderly day care during the day and was open for rental at night. Niecie was dedicated to promoting the arts in the city.” Rod Peterson joined the group in their new space. Even though he was a landscape painter, Rod knew that life drawing, traditional training for the great masters, is still good training for artists today. Eva Cincotta was teaching art classes in the basement of John’s Antiques and she was persuaded to join. Duker Bower and George Hansen were two other early important members.
Sketch Group has had four locations over the 20 years moving to the basement of a parking garage when the cultural center was given to the Malden Redevelopment Authority. Their next home was Oak Grove Community Center and then Commerce Place.
But through all, the group has thrived. What is their secret?
A group of “sketchers” gathered recently at Dockside restaurant after a Monday drawing session to discuss the success of Malden Sketch Group these 20 years. Eva Cincotta thinks the consistency of meeting every week no matter what has been key. Members drop in and out but know come Mondays, sketch group will be meeting. And in more recent years, a second night has been added and Thursdays means portrait drawing and painting.
Cambia Davis attributes the fact that the price has been kept low as important. Will Kirkpatrick says consistently good models and a good single light source keep him driving into Malden from Hudson every week. Judy Gruelich who books the models says proximity to the T has been important to getting good models to come to Malden from Boston.
Other members noted the welcoming atmosphere. There is no instruction given but the general attitude is supportive and encouraging. There are no “big egos”. Everyone is dedicated to a love of drawing and like attracts like.
“There was/is a steadiness of purpose and joy of just drawing that we have maintained from the beginning. New blood has always come in and invigorated the group,” stated Fred Seager.
Ginger Greenblatt thinks it suits the artistic temperament not to have to sign up ahead, just to be able to show up. Judy Gruelich says there are always drop-ins plus currently 75 active members in the database. On any given Monday night, 15-22 will show up to draw. 85 more artists stay on the roles to receive the communiques about events. Thursday portrait night attracts 6-12 participants a week coming from as far away as Quincy.
“Judy holds this group together. It cannot be overstated the work and dedication to the group that she has,” said Fred Seager and glasses were immediately raised in a toast to Judy Gruelich.
Everyone noted that the support of the City of Malden since 1995 has been key, and also Preotle Lane’s hosting of the annual exhibit featuring mostly works the artists create outside of sketch group. This year the opening event celebrating 20 years will take place on Friday evening, June 19th at Commerce Place, 350 Main Street, Malden from 6-8 pm. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. The exhibit will run until July 31st during lobby hours Monday through Friday 9-6 and Saturday 9-12.
“I thought it [Malden Sketch Group] would only last as long as the grant, but look what that seed money has done!” said Fred Seager.