For the first time in its 76-year history, the Chester County Art Association will hold a 12-hour life drawing marathon, starting tomorrow afternoon at its center on North Bradford Avenue.

From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., the association will have models pose for anyone who wishes to drop by and take pencil to paper or whatever other medium an artist chooses. People are welcome to come and go as they please.

The marathon will feature five models, with two posing together from 7 to 10 p.m. Each modeling session will last three hours, but the models will strike poses for various times, ranging from two minutes to an hour.

"I've been calling it the 'humane marathon' " because it doesn't run all night, said Bruce Dayton, a co-moderator of the workshop. Similar events he has attended at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Ursinus College have lasted from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

So why a marathon now?

It's a "unique event to attract new students and make people aware of what we have to offer here," said Paul Andreas, development director at the Chester County Art Association.

Ted Xaras, who will moderate the event with Dayton, had made the suggestion for a drawing marathon to the organization. Xaras will retire this year as chairman of the art department at Ursinus.

The nonprofit art association is dedicated to promoting arts through classes, art shows and community outreach. It was founded in 1931 by three local residents, including N.C. Wyeth.

Today, it has 1,200 members, and not all are from Chester County.

Dayton, 66, has been facilitating the life drawing class at the art association for 20 years.

Modestly describing his duty as "crowd control," he said he monitored rather than taught. Besides playing CDs of classical piano music and making coffee, he finds interesting models who will help the students develop their drawing skills.

"I found the secret to a good life drawing class is getting good models" - people who have "presence," Dayton said.

He will even bring models in from Philadelphia by train, picking them up at the Exton station to take them to his Monday night class.

A Phoenixville resident, Dayton worked as an illustrator for the Defense Department in Northeast Philadelphia for more than 36 years before retiring two years ago. His job included depicting cross-sections of weapons systems, planes and military vehicles. He also painted about 10 portraits of one-star and two-star generals.

"My backgrounds started getting more energetic, like with storms coming through," Dayton said with a laugh.

He said he hoped the marathon drew more people to the Chester County Art Association.

"You learn as much from the people you work with," Dayton said. Drawing workshops are an "exchange of ideas and techniques. I don't think everyone realizes it."

If You Go

Where: The Chester County Art Association, 100 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester.

When: The life drawing marathon will be held from 1 p.m. tomorrow to 1 a.m. Saturday.

Fee: $20.

For more information: Call 610-696-5600 or visit www.chescoart.org.

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