The Big DrawAs part of Ruskin’s celebratory 100th anniversary year, the SouthShore Arts Council organized a month-long art event – The Big Draw – to honor its founder, artist John Ruskin. The community founders were influenced by the writings and philosophy of Ruskin, who was best known for his work as an art critic.
The Big Draw is associated and motivated by the international Campaign for Drawing first initiated in Great Britain to honor John Ruskin, who was born in London in 1819 (
Ruskin’s version of The Big Draw incorporates every medium of art. Traditional art classes such as drawing, painting, photography, watercolors, and landscape drawings were taught by professional artists. Many non-traditional art mediums were also offered such as drawing with cloth, drawing with light, and traditional Chinese brush painting.
Drawing workshops, classes and activities were hosted throughout the month by community organizations, museums, libraries, schools and clubs. More than 14 guest artists participated in teaching classes that were offered for the novice artist as well as for the more advanced. Almost all classes were free of charge thanks to generous donations by the Community Foundation of Sun City Center, Hillsborough County Arts Council, Las Damas del Arte of Tampa, and Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation.
Bruce Marsh, SouthShore Arts Council board member, was thrilled with the overwhelming participation in The Big Draw. “We are delighted that this event is planting the seeds towards a community arts center in the Ruskin area,” said Marsh.
Marsh, who retired after 40 years teaching art and art history at the University of South Florida, taught a workshop at The Big Draw and also assisted in the coordination of the month-long event. “It started out much smaller, but quickly grew like a runaway train,” said Marsh. The event averaged 15 people per workshop, with some popular workshops such as the beginning drawing classes – holding more than 25 people in attendance.
“Our hope is that people will become aware of the value of art and professional art instruction,” said Marsh.
Apollo Beach resident Debbie Van Ore brought her 7-year-old daughter, Olivia, to the “Drawing Club.” This class was designed for children ages 6 – 9 to explore different ways to draw and the opportunity to meet guest artists. “This is a great experience for kids to be taught to draw by a professional artist,” said Van Ore. The children were instructed to start a drawing and pass the drawing to the next person to continue the picture. Each student added their own imagination to the drawing to create one piece of art.
“I love to draw, and we learned how to use our imaginations to draw what we were thinking about,” said Olivia Van Ore.
As part of this initiative, “The Community Mural Project” was a major focus for the month-long art event. The mural was designed and created by community teens and culminated in the painting of a 100-foot by 20-foot-tall mural along the south wall of Clark’s furniture store on U.S. Hwy. 41. This mural will remain on the wall as a benchmark for the revitalization in the Ruskin community.
For more upcoming events being hosted by the SouthShore Arts Council, visit its Website at

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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.