A Look Back on MoCCA Art Festival 2008

On Saturday June 7, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) kicked off their annual art festival at the historic Puck Building in lower Manhattan. CBR News was there to take in the sights and sounds, as well as speak to some of the staff and creators that were in attendance.

MoCCA is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about comic and cartoon art. From anime to caricatures to political cartoons, MoCCA strives to represent every genre of illustration. The annual art festival is a fundraising event that provides both exhibitors and attendees an opportunity to support the museum.

"We started MoCCA Art Festival in 2002," Programming Director Kent Worcester told CBR News. "The Puck building was named after the 19th century illustration magazine Puck, and so it seemed particularly appropriate to have an art festival [here]. We wanted to have an art festival that was open to everyone and not restricted to people who were immersed in the comics sub-culture. Those people are great, but we wanted a festival that was sort of a New York cultural festival, rather than a comics festival. It's a New York cultural festival about comics."

Both floors of the show were packed with creators from all walks of the art community, many of them independent and self-published. Art styles and mediums changed from table to table, and every subject from superheroes to the trials of high school life was captured in animated form.

There were also some high profile creators in the crowd, including Bill Plympton, Jamal Igle, Brian Wood and Fred Van Lente, who spoke about his involvement with MoCCA over the last several years. "I'm fortunate to be a trustee of MoCCA and I actually have been at every MoCCA convention since the beginning, whether as a volunteer for the museum or as an exhibitor" Van Lente told CBR. "Frankly, I think that the major appealing factor is New York City itself. We are one of the hubs of independent comics, and we have a lot of great institutions that support comic and cartoon art. So I think we're uniquely positioned, both as a major tourist attraction and as a home for the artwork, that both the interest and the talent sort of combine together to make this great show."

In talking to some of the other creators in attendance, the themes of culture and community were brought up again and again. Matthew Loux, creator of "Side Scrollers" and "Salt Water Taffy," spoke of the art festival as a place to unite with other New York creators. "MoCCA is definitely my favorite show," he said. "It's like a reunion each year of New York City comic creators and cartoonists, both indie and professional, from super-famous to super-unknown. Every year it gets better and better. I love it."

For many of the exhibitors, MoCCA not only offers a chance to catch up with old friends, but to meet new creators as well. "For me it's been a really amazing opportunity to meet people to collaborate with, and that's been the biggest thing for me" said Michael LaRiccia, the Xeric award-winning creator of "Black Mane." Every year I meet new people and I end up coming out of the festival with new collaborators, new friends, new fans and new opportunities."

Creator Geoff Vasile ("Track Rabbit") spoke highly of his fellow artists, stating, "I like to do all the big small press trade shows like MoCCA, SPX and the Alternative Press Expo, and invariably if I take other people's books home from a show, [MoCCA] is where I get the best stuff."

A steady stream of attendees continued to file into the Puck building throughout the day, many of them having come over from the MoCCA Gallery, where creator-run panels were going on all day. One of the programming highlights featured the presentation of the 2008 MoCCA Art Festival Award to legendary animator Bill Plympton. Other panels included creators Brian Wood ("Demo") and Rebecca Donner ("Burnout"), author Blake Bell and music critic David Hajdu.

As he surveyed the scene last Saturday at the Puck Building, MoCCA President Matt Murray was overwhelmed by the response to the show. "From the look of it, it's about one and a half times fuller than it was last year at this moment" Murray told CBR. "We're really excited about this year's attendance, and we hope the dealers and the vendors are as well. As a fan of comic and cartoon art, I've got to tell you this is one of the best shows that I have ever been to. I'm standing here looking at a table that is staffed by Art Spiegelman, next to someone that is publishing a micro mini, sitting next to a publisher of independent superhero comics. The diversity, I think is what draws people to the MoCCA art festival. I'm actually kind of speechless right now."

The 2008 MoCCA Art Festival concluded June 8 with another full day of programming. For those that missed the show but would still like to support MoCCA, they can head to www.moccany.org for information on becoming a member of the museum.

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