| Art |

U-Doodle Wants To Bring Miami Together With Doodling

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Whether you were a sketcher of ligers a la Napoleon Dynamite or the Picasso of, ahem, man parts like Superbad's Seth, it's likely you were into some kind of doodling back in the day. And while all kids are artists, as adults, artistic expression tends to go out the window with recess and training bras.

Grown-ups, however, long for a creative outlet (and a sense of connection) as much as kiddos -- a need Miami-based non-profit U-Doodle has seen firsthand. Created by two former UM students, the group is bringing doodling back in a big way.

See also: Alex Mijares and South Miami's Capretto Handbag Collaboration: Exotic Totes as Canvases

Founded back in 2011 by UM students and avid doodlers Jordan Magid and Marc Fruitema, the group has brought doodling to companies, schools, public places, et al. You name it, it's hosted doodlers armed with felt pens and markers.

"The organization started over the course of about two years, where I was first a student at the University of Miami and I was experimenting with public art on campus, particularly public doodling," says Magid. "I had this idea to build a doodle box where people could submit a doodle and take a doodle, and in a way communicate with each other."

People went bananas for the boxes.

"It was originally a far-out thought experiment -- how would people respond to interactive art? Would this bring people together? And the responses were unbelievable," Magid says. "It became an educational experience in order to use collaborative art as a tool to teach people how to embrace their creative power. It really evolved."

These days, Magid is doing grad work at Harvard, and Riko Chirito serves as the Program Director, bringing U-Doodle's projects into fruition with a team of Doodle Educators (a.k.a. trained volunteers). The group uses doodling in a whole host of ways, but Chirito cites their overall mission as one of connectivity and collaboration.

Their three areas of focus are: public art projects, team building workshops and after-school programs. They call the breadth of their endeavors "the Doodleverse."

As far as public art, this summer they created DoodleVille, a portable pop-up installation of 16 cubes covered in interactive chalkboards. DoodleVille popped into various events around town, including Cocowalk's Family Fun Day and LadyFest.

"It's 16 blocks in four sizes," says Chirito. "When you set it up, it's kind of like a city -- like a doodle village." They also had Doodle Your City, a multidimensional hexagonal structure built out of recycled materials that was on display through June.

Their first after school program is currently running at Jose De Diego Middle School. If the year-long effort is successful, they hope to expand to other schools. They chose the Wynwood-area school because, despite being right in the midst of Miami's artistic hub, the school is devoid of aesthetic appeal and lacking in resources.

"How many of these children know that right next to their school is an artist's paradise?" Chirito says. Through the program, kids learn social and team-building skills through artistic expression.

Then there are the team-building workshops -- group efforts to engage participants and foster bonding. They've partnered with lots of local companies, including Yelp!, The Launch Pad at University of Miami, The LAB Miami, The Orphaned Starfish Foundation, University of Florida Hillel and others.

And to build the sense of community they believe in (and get grown-ups doodling), they also have a MeetUp group that gets together once a month for some collective creativity. You can join the free group online, and meet other cool people in an inclusive, laid back environment. No artistic talented required.

Participating in a doodling event is about way more than drawing rainbows and palm trees -- it's a powerful exercise in human interaction, say Chirito and Magid.

"It's alarming to see how many people are genuinely fearful of recognizing that they have creative capacity. They're very afraid of working together in very simple ways," Magid explains. "While on the surface it looks like we're doodling together, we do it really deliberately. We are asking questions that get people sharing things we never share with strangers -- that social engagement is the juice of what we're doing."

You can check out U-Doodle on Facebook and via their website (where you can also apply to be a U-Doodle Educator).

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.

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