Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Thrill of the Show: Harrisburg Sketchers make their debut as exhibiting artists.

 Creating art is fulfilling. Showing one’s art is more fulfilling still.

The Harrisburg Sketchers are about to discover the thrill of the show as they prepare for their first exhibit, which starts this month in the DeSoto Vault of the Susquehanna Art Museum.

Not that they haven’t been busy with their art before.

“Harrisburg Sketchers is a group of local artists drawing the city environment we live in, on location, in any medium, one sketch at a time,” said Brian Zeiders, co-founder of the group, along with Ben Cohen. “We meet monthly to sketch and socialize, to learn from one another, and to bolster the local artist community.”

People around Harrisburg already may have seen the Sketchers at public events, at the Broad Street Market, at ArtsFest or just sketching on a street corner. In fact, they’ve become known for taking their creating on the road.

Appropriately, then, the exhibit title is “On Location Harrisburg Sketchers.”

“Now, [visitors] will get a chance to share in the perspectives of the artists,” said Lauren Nye, SAM’s director of exhibitions. “Each artist works in a different style, but often the sketches depict the same location or event. Visitors will be able to compare and contrast them, seeing the city from new vantage points.”

Inspiration for the Harrisburg group came from the Urban Sketchers, founded in Seattle 10 years ago. Since then, similar groups have mushroomed in many major cities, but not in Pennsylvania’s capital until 2012, Zeiders said.

Since the group’s inception, interest in the Sketchers has grown quickly.

“We’ve gained momentum in terms of the number of people who are part of us,” Cohen said.

Harrisburg Sketchers meets every third weekend, usually on a Saturday morning, with the simple mission of sketching what they see. They have sketched on the Capitol steps and in the Capitol itself, the Broad Street Market, the Market Street Bridge, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Wildwood, Italian Lake and Negley Park, among other venues.

Taking a cue from the plein air movement in art, the Sketchers often work outdoors—weather permitting. During winter months, they can be found in restaurants or coffee shops.

The Harrisburg Sketchers have diverse backgrounds, but they converge in their love of drawing and their pursuit of it in a social context.

Julie Dlugolecki, who uses her design skills in the auditor general’s office, has a bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting and has taught figure drawing at the Art Association of Harrisburg.

“I love the city, the people and sketching as a group again,” she said. “I hadn’t drawn in a very long time.”

She also enjoys the social aspect, chatting with her fellow Sketchers as they make art.

For John Davis, teacher and coordinator of art at the Milton Hershey School, joining the Sketchers had several motivations.

“I wanted to stretch myself with my own sketching abilities and be accountable to myself,” he said. “And I definitely enjoy networking with other artists, whether amateurs or professional—with like-minded, creative people.”

There are no rules about media to use or styles, which gives the Sketchers a sense of freedom. And traveling doesn’t mean missing out, since a Google search helps members locate similar groups in many locations.

Because a museum is hosting the Harrisburg Sketchers’ first exhibit, there will be no selling of members’ works.

“But that’s something to think about in the future,” said Cohen. “Meanwhile, our artists can benefit from contacts they make with visitors to the exhibit. Since this is our first exhibit anywhere, I’m really glad to see it in the heart of Harrisburg.”

Harrisburg Sketchers’ exhibit runs Aug. 23 to Oct. 27 in the DeSoto Family Vault of Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. Special events connected with the exhibit are 3rd in the Burg (free admission) on Fridays, Aug. 16, Sept. 20, and Oct. 18. For more information, call 717-233-8668 or visit

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