By Darryl Ayo Brathwaite
My mom was driving my car when we got hit by a Mack truck on the expressway but since my mom was driving it was no big deal. However it made a bit of an impression when we drove up to the Puck building with the front bumper hanging off. This was how I arrived at MoCCA in 2003, my first time professionally exhibiting at a comics show.
The MoCCA Art Festival has had its own brushes with death. For one, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art no longer exists. For another, the MoCCA Art Festival has seen its prestige as the pride of New York City’s comics community decline as the organization became increasingly chaotic. But through the Society of Illustrators, the Art Festival lives on. The Society of Illustrators has adopted an aggressive and responsive attitude toward addressing the years of comics community complaint about the MoCCA Art Festival. The result of this community outreach has been an immediate upswing in community attitude. For the first time since the Art Festival’s 2009 move to The Armory, people seemed positive. Even happy. Maybe it’s me.
It’s 2013 and the tenth year of my working comics convention tables. For the first time since 2008, I did well at MoCCA. I may have done *too* well, I’m starting to feel important.
Here are the objective facts:
The Society of Illustrators administration cut down the visual noise and sensory overload by dividing the aisles with curtains. These curtains also provided exhibitors a place to hang up their own decorations, or display art prints.
The Society created overhead aisle markers which helped both exhibitors and attendees to understand where they were at all times.
There was an on-site cafeteria and there were multiple seating areas so that people could relax and refresh during the festival.
The volunteer staff is always excellent at MoCCA but this year, the volunteers were trained to assist and also trained to suggest ways in which they might assist. That’s a significant jump.
As a touch of irony, the Society’s most drastic adjustment was creating a space inside the festival, on the actual showroom floor, for the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art’s display collection. That’s right, for the first time ever, representative artwork from the now-defunct museum was available for public viewing at the art festival.
Comics is a hard business and even harder when the infrastructure is not supportive of the practical needs of the people in this business. 2013’s MoCCA Art Festival felt like a success because it sought to improve the morale of the community that uses the festival. I hope that the Society of Illustrators continues to move the MoCCA Art Festival in the direction that they’ve steered it.
And happy ten years of comic shows for me, specifically :-)