11 Apr
by L. Nichols

As many of you reading this blog (or any other indie comics blog) know, this past weekend (April 9-10, 2011) was the MoCCA Art Fest. This year I tabled with Darryl Ayo, Jorge Diaz, and Eric Colossal. (Darryl took all these photos)

Every year the thought of MoCCA brings me joy. MoCCA was the first comic show I ever attended as a creator (4 years ago now?). It’s in my home city, my favorite city. I really love the fact that it moved to April. I mean… everything is there that should make it awesome, yet every year I am more and more disenchanted with it. This year was the first year I didn’t automatically sign up for a table next year. I think I am more in love with the idea of MoCCA than the reality of it.

I’ll be honest, I sold more this year than I have sold ANY other year. But it was still not enough to make it worth my time and money to get a table for next year. The prices are too high for the table to make it worth it for me. And the high price at the door (I heard lots of people complaining about that as they walked by) means less sales, too. One or the other I could deal with, but both just leaves a bad feeling all around.

That being said, I really did enjoy my time at MoCCA this year. So many people stopped by to say hi. Some new faces, but mostly old ones. People recognize me and ask for my new stuff. Good feelings. Good vibe. I also had a lot of fun drawing portraits of people for a small price. And the quality of the new people (and their work) seemed better, too! That’s always great to see. It seemed like some of the organizational issues of the past few years at the Armory have been ironed out some. Things seemed to flow better. Still, there are things I think could be improved upon. Better signage on the street to bring in passers by. Nametags that are made by actual cartoonists (like SPX does) instead of the super cheap looking ones. And, really, the price.

But people have kind of beat that dead horse for a few years now, it seems. Hardly seems worth my time to throw in any big punches. Maybe I will just go for my own explanation of why I don’t plan on having a table next year. MoCCA for me has become a place where I see the people I know and rarely any new faces. And, honestly, I think SPX does a better job of giving the feeling of cartoonist summer camp happy fun reunion time. I want to find new faces, new friends, new fans, new audiences. I’d rather take my $$ and take a road trip to Philly for the Philly Alt Comic Con, or spend a Saturday at Pete’s Mini Zine Fest. Maybe for a bigger adventure, MIX or ECCC or APE or Stumptown (or TCAF if I ever get in). I could travel AND table (and stay with friends I haven’t seen in a long time) for a rough equivalent of what I pay for MoCCA. And I would see new people, new faces. Hell, I’m even trying to get a table in Artist’s Alley at NYCC this year! About the same price as half a table at MoCCA and a TON more traffic. I want to see new faces. I want to see new things. And, I guess MoCCA just isn’t doing that for me.

So I guess this is it, MoCCA. You probably won’t even notice I’m gone. I promise I’ll come back and visit, though. I think it might be nice to be on the other side of the table for a change.

18 Responses to “MoCCA”

  1. Box Brown April 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    In order to reduce our out of pocket table costs this year we did the following things:

    1) Found a student to order the table (discount)
    2) Ordered early (discount)
    3) Split the table in three.

    Ended up only costing us $100 a piece.

    • Box Brown April 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm #

      PS: This might’ve been the most fun I ever had at MoCCA. I think its mostly cause all my table mates and nearby table friends were cool.

      • L. Nichols April 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

        I think this might’ve been the most fun I had, too. But not as much fun as I have at other shows. My tablemates were great and my neighbors, too. I don’t know. I think I just want a change of scenery. Maybe I’ll be back the year after that?

    • Cheese April 11, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      Did you each make it back?

    • L. Nichols April 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Yeah. It was about $100/piece for us. We ordered early and split 4 ways. But I have so much stuff that I would need an entire half table to myself next year. Hence, price challenge! Plus, I never feel like I see ANYTHING while I’m there, so it would be nice to just be a friendly NYC face for a change.

  2. Sabin April 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I didn’t table or volunteer this year. I’ve done either every year I’ve lived in New York. I know their director left right in the middle of planning… so who knows if things will actually change. The tables are prohibitively priced… and the student discount is really insulting to hardworking cartoonists.

    This year I walked around and handed out flyers… got to see a couple panels and it was great. Although I missed tabling a little, it was really great to be free and just enjoy the show.

    New York needs a show that caters to indie comics artists like the Brooklyn fest that isn’t as exclusive and that isn’t as prohibitively expensive as MOCCA. I thought about NYCC as well… I don’t think my stuff would sell there but maybe if enough indie people got together and took it over it might be fun! Fingers crossed for you!

    • L. Nichols April 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Yeah. I’m actually super excited about just SEEING the show for a change. I want to be able to just talk with people without worrying about hurrying back to my table. It’s my city. I want to engage others without worrying about selling.

      I don’t know that my stuff would sell at NYCC, either. But I think it would be a nice change of pace. And, if anything, new faces/new scene.

  3. gabby schulz April 11, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    I personally am sort of surprised everyone is still giving MoCCA’s continued price hikes a pass with the “but it’s a funnddddraaaiser!” logic. I’m also genuinely surprised there are still any remaining small-press cartoonists who can afford table fees of over $500. It is now officially smacking of exploitation.

    Unlike actual comics artists and small-press publishers in the US, MoCCA (the museum) enjoys a modest buffet of public & private financial support (including NY taxpayer money from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs). Their list of trustees is vast & deep. All that is free money. Nobody seems to understand, this year any more than the last, why that income needs to be supplemented by rising table and admission fees from the creators they’re supposedly championing, or the audiences they’re cultureifyin’.

    It’s been said before, but you know who COULD legitimately use a little fundraiser now & then? The “indie” (read: readable) cartoonists & small publishers MoCCA relies on to provide the actual draw to their cons, and supply the cartoons for their cartoon museum. I was a little surprised at the amount (and high caliber) of creators & comic-shop industry folks who stopped by our table this past weekend saying they’d decided it wasn’t worth it to exhibit this year. It’s a growing trend. And considering the noticeable drop in attendance this year, I’d guess the crowds are catching on too that there might be better ways to spend $24 on a Spring weekend in NYC than to offer charity to an obscure cartoon museum (not to mention the cut the US military must be pocketing on rent for the Armory… but, ah, that’s another comment I suppose).

    From my perspective as an author, the MoCCA fest was nice enough this year — but my publishers fronted the cash for the table fee. There is no way in god’s living cock I could have afforded even one-fifth what MoCCA’s asking for a table now — and that’s not even adding the travel expenses for out-of-towners.

    These are dark days, and from how I hear it, many indie cartoonists — historically art’s least-monied individuals — are already waking up & realizing there are many more-deserving recipients for their charity.

    • darrylayo, eternal antagonist April 12, 2011 at 7:48 am #

      You’ve just convinced me, I’m dropping MoCCA from my schedule next year as well. I didn’t realize it was $24 for a weekend pass! Christ Jesus! No wonder I could see to the other end of the aisle!

      And $500…jeez they might as well make this a curated show.

      I’m reeling.

      • gabby schulz April 12, 2011 at 11:09 am #

        Sorry, technically it’s a mere $20 for a weekend pass. I was doubling $12 a day. And hey, it’s only $12/weekend for MoCCA members!

        It really is just a type of curation. a kind of lame, Randian type of curation.

  4. katie April 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    I’d like to know more about MoCCA’s funding outside of what comes in through the festival, but I can’t find an annual report or any of their 990s online. Yes, they do list DCA as a sponsor, but how much is DCA actually putting up? (My feeling is that it’s meager:

    I also don’t want to rush to assume any donation from their sponsors or trustees is “free money”: for the most part, it takes considerable time and resources to successfully fundraise for a non-profit, especially one with limited visibility and a mission that doesn’t smack of urgency.

    That being said, if it is absolutely essential to their operating costs to keep the MoCCA fest a fundraiser, the museum needs to be transparent with hopeful exhibitors about why their exhibition/entrance fees are astronomical. And that information needs to be communicated to attendees as well. MoCCA either needs to be prepared to lose the interest/dollars of the mildly curious passerby, or find a new way to start covering costs.

    And yeah, let’s get it out of the Armory. Not only is it problematic for reasons Gabby mentioned above, it’s also one of the least pleasant places to spend indoors for more than 20 minutes.

    • L. Nichols April 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      Yeah. I think some transparency all around might be nice.

    • gabby schulz April 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      It seems a little disturbing to me that, if MoCCA’s not getting the funds it needs from the state, city, or trustees, it sees quietly fleecing artists and publishers as a strategy, without a single public word about where exactly that money is going, or why it is needed.

      “for the most part, it takes considerable time and resources to successfully fundraise for a non-profit, especially one with limited visibility and a mission that doesn’t smack of urgency.”

      Sure. So why are we still participating in these “fundraisers,” again? A lot of MoCCA-fest exhibitors/attendees are wondering where exactly all our extra money is going. It’s probably not towards improving MoCCA’s visibility — for a New York museum, MoCCA has always seemed pitifully under-memed and under-curated. I’ve never actually heard a single NY cartoonist friend say “hey, are you going to the MoCCA opening tonight?” or “have you checked out the latest MoCCA exhibit?” It’s rare that I meet someone who even knows where the museum is located. It’s telling that most people assume “MoCCA” means the con, & not the museum itself.

      This is just my personal opinion, but I’m not really sure at this point why the comics community NEEDS MoCCA to exist as an institution — especially if we’re the ones paying to keep it solvent. The general consensus is that they don’t have a whole lot of presence or cultural function in comics. The con is nice & all, but it’s no longer the only game in town. It seems like high time for them to give us a reason for taking all our money, because it’s starting to seem like it’d all be better spent at one of the many other cons, locally or abroad.

      Of course, these concerns were brought up last year by some cartoonists outraged at LAST year’s price hikes; don’t remember anyone at MoCCA addressing this then, either. And why would they, as long as the pre-registration checks keep flowing?

  5. Cheese April 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    I go to the museum about once a year, and I know folks who go much more often. I like the museum, I like the idea, I even like it’s location, what I hate is how poorly it’s run.

    House of Twelve has had a long relationship with MoCCA (Hell, Miss and Kevin had their wedding reception there), my complaints about the show and the museum itself aren’t because I want it to go away, but because I want it to be better.

    • gabby schulz April 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm #

      Sorry if I’m starting to sound like I want it gone. Looking for funding info on their website I actually saw they’ve had some cool exhibits. But that makes me wonder all the more why they’re not on the proverbial map. And why they demand such huge table/admission fees at their con, from a public who doesn’t even necessarily know they’re supporting the museum.

      • Cheese April 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

        Oh, I’m totally with you, I’ve been bashing them for years over it’s increasingly terrible organization and beyond the pale table prices. The biggest problem they have is it’s run by amateurs and volunteers. If they had more then one paid professional on staff at a time they might be able to have a promotional department that wasn’t made up of SVA students. Volunteers are essential to any non-profit organization, and Xenu bless’em for their hard work. That said, it is rare that an intern or volunteer can take the place of a paid professional.


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