Report on Drawing Connections, a Sketchbook-led Walking Tour of the French Quarter of New Orleans

Jul 24, 2023 by Jason Strada, Executive Director of Friends of the Cabildo

Drawing Connections, a sketchbook-led walking tour of the French Quarter of New Orleans funded by an American Architecture and Landscape Field Trip grant from the Society of Architectural Historians, has been created and is now a regular offering of the Friends of the Cabildo (FOC) and Louisiana State Museum (LSM). In total, Drawing Connections has reached 574 students between 3rd grade and college. While the reporting period for the grant may be at a close, this program will continue for years to come; currently there are 228 students from four schools registered for Drawing Connections in July and August of 2023.

students sketching

The planning and preparations needed for Drawing Connections guided walking tours consisted of the creation of the guided sketchbook and the training of volunteer tour guides. The sketchbook began in January 2022 with Barbara Holdsworth (FOC) and Chris Cook (LSM) preparing the first rough draft. Consulting architects Sandra Baptie and Charles Ruello first reviewed the sketchbook in February 2022. Both Sandra and Charles also contributed drawings to the sketchbook; Sandra for the Creole Cottage and Shotgun pages, Charles for the Historic Preservation pages. In addition, an early draft of the sketchbook was reviewed and critiqued by architect and Friends of the Cabildo board president Robert Cangelosi, Jr. After edits, the sketchbook rough draft was sent to the graphic designer. Barbara Holdsworth and Chris Cook each contributed over 30 hours to this project, including 14 hours of meetings and 5 hours of trainings.

students sketch at tables outside

While work on the sketchbook was ongoing, Barbara Holdsworth and Chris Cook began recruitment efforts for the volunteer tour guides. Using the pool of volunteers available through the Friends of the Cabildo, two potential guides were recruited to help develop the walking tour.

students looking at statue

Friends of the Cabildo walking tour guide program graduates Roger Nadeau and Carrie Smith worked with Chris Cook on the timing and number of stops for the walking portion. We piloted this tour in partnership with Historic BK House and Gardens' arKIDtecture Crunp. In three 2.5-hour sessions in June 2022, Roger and Carrie led a total of 36 kids ranging in age from 8 to 13 on the Drawing Connections tour. Despite the heat of New Orleans in June, we were able to adjust the timing as well as devise strategies for weather-driven adaptations. Feedback from the arKIDtecture educators was incorporated into the final draft of the sketchbook. In the fall of 2022, we experimented with college students on this tour, giving it to a total of 62 students from Louisiana State University and Texas A&M University.

In February, 2023, Chris Cook and Barbara Holdsworth organized a tour guide training session led by Carrie Smith and Sandy Baptie. Seventeen guides completed the training and remain available to lead this tour.

Between December, 2022, and May, 2023, we were able to serve 476 students between 3rd and 12th grade.

group of students in front of arch

Drawing Connections was advertised by mentions in the Louisiana State Museum's educators' newsletter as well as the Friends of the Cabildo's newsletter. Direct outreach efforts included hand-delivery of program flyers to area schools and participation in the April 2023 New Orleans Public School Resource Fair. Chris Cook presented on Drawing Connections at the Louisiana Department of Education's Teacher Leader Summit in New Orleans on May 31, 2023; 168 teachers were registered to attend Chris' session and all received sketchbooks.

As mentioned above, Drawing Connections is now a regular offering of the Louisiana State Museum and Friends of the Cabildo, and as bookings continue to come in for 2023, we wish to sincerely thank the Society of Architectural Historians for the funding to create and launch this program.