'Wonderfully horrible' creations shine at Bad Art Night

The "winners" of last year's Bar Art Night competition. Photo courtesy of the Mountain View Library.

No one is encouraged to be a Van Gogh, a Cassatt or a Picasso Wednesday at Mountain View's annual Bad Art Night, a no-holds-barred event for the artistically challenged to have a little fun and create something truly awful.

The fourth annual Bad Art Night, hosted by the Mountain View Library at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, gives adults of all ages and backgrounds a no-pressure creative environment to make paintings and 3D art projects. Expectations are so low that attendees with little or no artistic chops are encouraged to come in and embrace their lack of talent -- maybe creating something that's so bad it's good.

The event is a bit like playing with leftovers. The library has a stockpile of extra materials left over from the more frequent -- and more serious -- Adult Craft Night events, and receives donated art supplies that provide all the fodder needed for the bad art, said librarian Pam Schwartz. There's no real guidance or training on good technique, just a bunch of tables set up with materials ready to go.

"It's a free-for-all," Schwartz said. "People can make whatever they want."

The point of Bad Art Night is for adults to tap into the creative process without feeling like they have to be really good at it, Schwartz said. By knocking down that barrier in a blatant way, she said participants feel free to do what they want and are encouraged to "try to fail" with some intentionally poor works of art.

Numerous libraries across the country hold similar bad art night-style events, many targeting teens and encouraging them to create "disasters" and "monstrosities." One guide for librarians suggested that the key to truly bad art is a three-way Venn diagram between tackiness, glitter and total uselessness.

Librarian Amy Helmig said she originally got the idea from the Sacramento Public Library while scoping out potential activities for adults, and decided to give it a try in 2016. It has since become an annual tradition, she said, and it's always fun to see what people create from the pile of miscellaneous art supplies.

Over the years, Mountain View's homegrown version of Bad Art Night has drawn as many as 40 people. Near the end of the event, library staff collect the finished works of art and create a low-quality gallery, giving participants a chance to vote on which is the best of the worst. The winner will receive "a very tacky trophy, a prize, and glory of being the worst of them all," according to a teaser for the event.

Of the roughly 20 entries each year, Helmig said the artists are always quick to form a consensus on who 'won' each year.

More information is online at

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Su Hong 2.0? Former waiter reopens Chinese standby under new name in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 9 comments | 5,998 views

What gives you hope?
By Sherry Listgarten | 9 comments | 2,878 views

Living as Roommates? Not Having Much Sex?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,857 views


The holidays are here!

From live music to a visit with Santa, here's a look at some local holiday activities to help you get into the spirit of the season.