Temple alumna’s coloring book supports Philly nonprofits

“Draw to Action” features 30 Philadelphia artists and went on sale on Jan. 12.

Debora Charmelus, a 2015 communication studies alumna and creative producer of “Draw To Action,” holds the coloring book at Bok on 9th Street near Mifflin on Jan. 22. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

An eclectic collection of figures, including Benjamin Franklin in a medical mask, Garfield the cat on a skateboard and a variety of Philadelphia sports mascots, adorn the pages of the coloring book “Draw to Action.”

“Each artist has a different style that they’ve really done a great job of capturing within the color book,” said Debora Charmelus, a 2015 communication studies alumna and creative director for the coloring book.

Draw to Action, which went on sale on Jan. 12 for $20, features images from 30 different graphic, sketch and illustration artists from around Philadelphia. Proceeds from the 44-page work go to 15 nonprofits and grassroots organizations in Philadelphia and the contributing artists.

People who purchase the book choose which organization to support with their purchase, Charmelus said. 

Participating nonprofits include the Philadelphia Bail Fund, an organization that posts bail for those who cannot afford the payment, the Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project, an organization supporting youth who are currently or formerly incarcerated, and Juntos, a Latino immigrant human rights organization.

“The idea came from having nothing to do, seeing people want to take on new hobbies, new activities, and thinking through how could we cook up something fun that could benefit people that were staying at home,” Charmelus said. 

The book’s team sold 750 copies of “Draw to Action” so far and will cap sales at 1,100. They started shipping more copies out on Feb. 8 after the book was on backorder for a few weeks. 

The “Draw to Action” team includes Charmelus, Brendan Lowry, art director and curator, and Nick Massarelli, the designer, recruited artists in April 2020, Charmelus said. 

The team left the book’s theme open-ended for artists and encouraged them to submit designs they wanted. Many of the artists submitted drawings relating to events in 2020, like the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests, Charmelus said. 

“Art is a catalyst for change,” she added. “We wanted to give artists another medium where they could express that change.”

Each page of “Draw to Action” features the corresponding artist’s drawing, name and Instagram handle. 

Justine Kelley, a printmaking and illustration artist based in Philadelphia and a second-year graphic design master’s student, created a drawing for the book after receiving an email invitation from Lowry, she said.

Kelley drew Garfield the cat because he’s a “relatable character.” She joined to collaborate with other artists and support local organizations while having the freedom to create her own drawing, she said.

The book gives people a chance to get away from current events, especially while in the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelley added.

“The act of coloring, whether it’s with a pencil or crayon, is this way of being in the moment and a way of taking the focus off of this spinning wheel of everything happening,” Kelley said. 

Coloring books are effective in reducing stress for both children and adults, and were named by AdAge, a global media organization, as a major creative trend during the pandemic, The New York Times reported.

Arla Patch, a 1972 sculpture and education alumnus, artist, writer and Indigenous rights activist, submitted “Peaceful Heart,” which depicts a heart in a sky full of clouds and represents the peace of a new day, she said. 

Patch felt drawn to the group’s mission to feature local Philadelphia artists and donate to local nonprofits, she said. 

“It became much more about supporting community causes as the pandemic evolved,” Patch said. 

In the future, the “Draw to Action” team will continue to raise money for organizations in and around Philadelphia in a creative and fun way, she added. 

“It was a dynamic experience,” Charmelus said. “As the year changed, and it did so much last year, the pieces changed as well.” 

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