Art and Write Night returns to the UI Museum of Natural History

The UI’s Museum of Natural History has reintroduced “Art & Write Night,” a program that invites artists and writers into the space to use the museum as inspiration. In its return after COVID-19-related cancellations, Art & Write Night will occur on the first Friday of each month until the semester’s end.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

A pencil and a notebook are seen at the Museum of Natural History in Macbride Hall on Feb. 17 2022.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

On the first Friday of every month, after the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History closes for the night, not everyone leaves.

The museum has reintroduced its Art & Write Night, a program where artists can visit the museum’s Bird Hall or Mammal Hall after hours and use its collections as inspirations for their writing or drawing.

The first Art & Write Night was held on Feb. 4, and the program will reoccur the first Friday of each month from 6 – 8 p.m. until the semester’s end.

COVID-19 put a pause on Art & Write Night in spring 2020, but the program has returned with a few changes. Director of Education & Engagement Carolina Kaufman wanted to introduce optional writing and sketching prompts and use the last 20 minutes of the event for sharing.

“I think it helps some people to have a starting place, so instead of handing them a blank sheet, here’s something that you can kind of, you know, serve as a springboard for inspiration,” Kaufman said. “Even for somebody who’s a professional or considered really well trained, they’re exercises — they’re just for fun and to help let your mind run free.”

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Upon entering Bird Hall, attendees will find a table filled with prompts, paper, colored pencils, and other useful materials for the night’s activities. There are chairs scattered throughout the hall for guests to sit while they create.

Jessica Smith, communications coordinator for Pentacrest Museums, said that while the museum markets the event to students, anyone can join.

“In the past, we’ve hosted visitors of all ages, grades, skill sets, and backgrounds who come on their own, on a date, in a small group, or as a class,” Smith wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “The more varied our guests, the richer the experience for all.”

It is clear that younger audiences are more than happy to take advantage of the event. By 6:30 p.m. at the museum’s last write night, the halls were filled with people – everyone from college students, to parents and their kids, to unaccompanied artists sketching solo.

Cassidy Pekarek, an English and creative writing and art history major and a studio art minor, is on the student advisory board for the project. She said she heard about the event through an email during the pandemic, and then went through an interview process to join the student advisory team. She noted that being a part of the project has been a great way to reconnect with the museum since COVID-19 closures.

“I really like seeing all the really beautiful displays and the dioramas they build,” she said. “I think it’s such a cool opportunity to be able to look behind the scenes and see the collections.”