UI Museum of Natural History holds tranquil ‘Art Nite’

Iowa City artists enjoyed a creative outlet on Thursday night in MacBride.


Grace Colton

An artist sketches in the Museum of Natural History in MacBride Hall for Art Nite on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019.

Philip Runia, Arts Reporter

Between bustling crowds and tiny desk spaces, it’s hard to find space that is quiet and large enough to render a decent sketch in Iowa City without having a studio. Art and non-art majors, graduates, and community members alike were invited to render their masterpieces in a space designed for inspiration on Feb. 7.

The “Art Nite” is a free event put on by the UI Museum of Natural History. Originally scheduled for Jan. 31, the university rescheduled the event because of the polar-like weather. On Feb. 7, artists, families, and the UI Art Hawks attended.

Many students who come to the UI used to draw in high school but are not majors and/or do not often get the opportunity to draw, paint, or render their passions in college, especially not in a community setting. For this reason, the Art Hawks provides an area and free supplies on the IMU third floor. The group meets twice a month, switching between Mondays and Thursdays. Club President Shannon O’Hara considered the event a social for Art Hawks members, because many of them are not art majors.

“Art majors come in and work on assignments,” she said. “Others don’t do [art] as their major but want a space where they can come and work on that, especially if they’re in the dorms and don’t have room to do it.”

O’Hara is a senior majoring in marketing with an English minor. In her free time, she prefers to paint, draw, and create multimedia work. Normally drawing scenery, landscapes, or architecture, she looked toward the background of the figures on display for her drawing. Although she doesn’t normally draw animals, it was nice to have a lifelike reference rather than merely a picture, she said.

Usually painting but using the Art Nite as sketching practice, UI graduate Julia O’Shaughnessy tried her hand at still-life. O’Shaughnessy draws creatures, but not very realistic ones, she said. She set her concentration on her sketch pad and went to work on the display in front of her, her winter wear pooling around her on the floor.

“I always love it here; it’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s my day off, and I’ve been cooped up all day, so it was a good excuse to venture out into the cold. I want to get better at drawing animals.”

While conditioned artists practiced their skills around the exhibits, younger novices did the same. While father Joe Heath watched over them, 8- and 6-year-old Cole and Bryce Heath sat close to the glass, absorbed in their drawings. The kids hadn’t been in the museum for a while, but it held just as much wonder. Both boys enjoy drawing, especially Bryce. Usually a lot of Pokémon, Heath said.

“[The museum is] Bryce’s favorite place in the world — Cole’s, too,” Heath said. “We come here a lot, maybe every week in the summer. It’s entertaining and free for the kids. And lots of stairs to run off energy.”

The next Art Nite will be held at 5 p.m. Feb. 21.