TRAVERSE CITY — The 229th birthday of Samuel Morse, World Book Day or simply turning the letters of the alphabet into fun faces.

One never knows the source of Jason Dake’s illustrative inspiration or video vision.

It may be the first portion or in the closing seconds, but Draw NoMI’s Doodle Sessions deliver a little knowledge about art and culture from the Dennos Museum Center to people’s homes on YouTube.

When schools closed and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Stay at Home orders, Draw NoMI’s family programming at the Dennos Museum Center was put on hold.

So Doodle Sessions began. The series debuted March 26 and showed people how to draw a tin can, adorned at the conclusion of the program with a leafy vegetable in honor of World Spinach Day.

The quick-hitting videos are done by Dake, the curator for education at the Dennos Museum Center. He uses an iPad application called Vittle, separately records the audio and puts them on the organization’s YouTube channel on Mondays and Thursdays.

Mary Gillett, director of the Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network, said the Doodle Sessions are another example of the “tremendous amount of resiliency shown” by area groups during unusual times.

The Doodle Sessions are slanted toward upper elementary children, but is something the whole family can do together.

“To me, I think of that third-grade to sixth-grade range,” said Dake, who has been at Dennos for 7½ years. “But that doesn’t mean younger kid or teens to adults can’t do it.”

Doodle Sessions are designed to spark 30-60 minutes of art activity after they end.

“Let’s give them a couple of things to work with,” Dake said.

The video sessions, which began with a self-drawing of Dake, are brief to keep the attention span of all involved.

“I think the longest is 2½ to 2 minutes, 45 seconds,” he said. “To me if you are on a screen like this, it’s hard enough to keep kid’s attention, much less an adults, for too long.”

Even though Doodle Sessions are a month old, Draw NoMI has been around in different forms since it debuted in 2014 as part of a worldwide event, The Big Draw.

The Big Draw spurred an exhibit at Dennos and a free event for kids in October.

Several years after northern Michigan joined in The Big Draw, a more local focus led to Draw NoMI and partnerships with the Traverse Area District Library and the Great Lakes Children’s Museum. The focus was still on October.

Supported by the Linda O’Meara Fund for Arts Education, Draw NoMI’s partners include Crooked Tree Arts Center — Traverse City, Michigan Legacy Art Park, Oliver Art Center, Twisted Fish Gallery and Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network. This network and an expanded online presence allowed an increased arts presence beyond the 10th month on the calendar.

“It’s a way of bringing people to the site and get them to support the other organizations,” Dake said. “It gives us something to gather around. It’s kind of like a campfire for arts programs in the area.”

“We’re happy to be a part of it, share the word and connect, promote and advocate for all of our groups,” Gillett added.

Last summer the Dennos hosted regular family programs on the second Sunday of the month. Programming was included with admission to the museum. The COVID-19 pandemic put a wrinkle in those plans this spring.

“That kind of has been put to rest for the time being,” Dake said.

The Dennos Museum Center YouTube channel has 80 subscribers and the debut Doodle Session was viewed more than 170 times in the first month.

“Once it’s up, it’s up,” Dake said. “I think our first video has (more than) 100 views and I know that wasn’t all the first day.”

The Doodle Sessions were designed to supplement school education at home. Dake said continuing the series beyond June will be reassessed in the summer.

In the meantime, Dake said it’s been easier to put the sessions together at home and allowing him to spend more time with his newborn son.

More information on Draw NoMI is available under the Events tab at

“To me, I think of that third-grade to sixth-grade range. But that doesn’t mean younger kid or teens to adults can’t do it.” Jason Dake

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