THOUSANDS joined in the fun as York Art Gallery held a huge open day ahead of its £8 million refurbishment.

The gallery drew the crowds and the crowds drew on the gallery as visitors young and old sketched and painted their own pictures, doodles and thoughts on the walls of two downstairs rooms, following the safe removal of the gallery’s own works.

More than 3,800 people took part on Saturday, and contributions included portraits, cartoon characters, landscapes, animals, flowers, and an upside-down globe.

One visitor, Julie Petts, said she drew some poppies, representing her growing family of children and grandchildren, and even the Lord Mayor of York, Coun Keith Hyman, and his wife added to the display.

Children also helped to assemble a giant mosaic of the gallery while others used graphic technology to draw with light on another wall or created crocheted designs including umbrellas and jellyfish inside the building and in Exhibition Square outside, with even the wires on nearby phone boxes being decked out in crocheted flowers.

Visitors also took part in clay modelling, quilt-making and knitting to music.

Gaby Lees, assistant curator of arts learning, said: “We didn’t really know what to expect, but this exceeded any expectations we could have had. The open day was all about the public taking ownership of the gallery as we handed it over to them for the day, and we had visitors from the whole gamut of ages - from children through to pensioners.

"We were particularly impressed with the number of young people who took part, because they aren’t an audience we always get. The creativity on show has just blown us away.”

• The gallery will now be closed until Easter 2015.