Worldcon 2011: Good Year For The Artists?
Today, I've got a few words to share rather than pictures.
Wanted to give a shoutout to several people who are working very hard to make this year's World Science Fiction Convention a potentially great convention for sf/f artists. For those that haven't been to Worldcon (same show, shorter moniker), you're probably asking, "Isn't Worldcon always potentially great for sf/f artists?" Answer = some Worldcons more than others for the art crowd.
I'm especially excited about this year's show in Reno in August, from an art standpoint.
1. Art Night: for the first time, Worldcon is designating the second evening of the convention as 'Art Night' to celebrate the visual arts in sf/f. They're featuring events and activities spread across the exhibit hall and program rooms. Activities will range from extended hours in the Art Show to featured artist demonstrations and interactive maker activities. For artists, every night is 'Art Night' but I think it's exciting that the con has realized that if it wants to attract the best pro sf/f talent, then it should celebrate the sf/f arts in a concerted way. Will be very fun and hopefully they've created a new Worldcon tradition.
2. Meet The Artist: Kaffeeklatches are a long-standing tradition at Worldcons and better sf/f cons. They're little gatherings between a single author and/or artist and a small gathering of his/her fans. There's usually a signup sheet involved and they're scheduled programming items. I don't think this year's Worldcon intends these 'Meet The Artist' hours as kaffeeklatches in the usual sense, but perhaps in similar spirit. It sounds like it'll be designated hours when artists are encouraged to visit with art fans and collectors in the Art Show which I think is good for driving traffic and energy there. I've seen conventions where the Art Show becomes a forgotten zone because Worldcons tend to place all of their heavy emphasis on literary functions. It's good to see this year's Worldcon making sure that the Art Show will be vital and vibrant.
3. Artist Showcase Book: A very cool idea. I believe Worldcon is adopting this idea from the success seen at IlluXCon with their artist souvenir book. This will be a full-color book available to Worldcon members featuring bios and art from all of the artists exhibiting in the Art Show. This is separate from the usual Program Book seen at most Worldcons, and gives featured exposure to the Art Show's artists.
Worldcons cost significant money in order to attend: registration fees, hotel, airfare and spending money, whether they be authors, agents, editors, publishers, retailers, fans, or yes, artists. On top of all of that, no one spends more to attend a Worldcon than an Art Show artist (except for possibly retailers in the dealers room). Think about the very expensive framing and shipping costs for the art, and in some cases, insurance for same. And that prep time is valuable time spent away from professional gigs for the pro artists. And then they have to ship and insure the art to get it home again as well. This makes it tough for us professional artists to justify the cost of a Worldcon every year.
Considering that, I'm surprised an Artist Showcase Book hasn't been ventured sooner to draw attention to the artists that make an Art Show viable and vital, but kudos to this year's Worldcon for doing so. It's a great move in the right direction.
4. All-Star team of showrunners: No successful convention happens without people behind the scenes doing the heavy lifting to carry it off. Every year Worldcon changes cities. Different organizing committees run it each time -- a new animal from year to year. That said, this year's organizing committee is like the NBA All-Star team of conrunners. Only they know the strange brew of circumstance that brought them together but if you've attended successful sf/f cons, the sharp-eyed will recognize common denominators like Ian Stockdale, Vincent Docherty, Laurie and Jim Mann, Patty Wells, Ben Yalow, John Lorentz, Deb Geisler, Geri Sullivan, Karen Meschke, and several other bright lights in the committee listings over the years. They're people who come from different parts of the US, and even different parts of the globe, and work hard on these cons for nothing more than the love of the game. This year's Worldcon features a group of the very best of the best conrunners in fandom, working behind-the-scenes. That's not normal. I'm not gonna jinx these people by saying this year's Worldcon will be a perfectly-tuned, flawless con, but we can all expect it will be as expertly produced as there's been in recent memory. If you're a professional artist sitting on the fence wondering when is a good year to do Worldcon, this would be one of those years where the stars align in your favor because the talent behind-the-scenes is as good as the talent in the limelight (art stars such as Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Bob Eggleton, Richard Hescox, Dave Palumbo, along with leading art directors such as Lou Anders, Irene Gallo and more).
5. Anne Gray and Colin Harris: If you're a pro artist, these are two names you should remember. When you get to Worldcon, give 'em thanks if you see them. Along with Jannie Shea, they're the ones that have really spearheaded the effort to make this year's Worldcon an attractive and compelling event for the visual arts. They've developed the ideas above and have consulted artists and art directors such as Lou Anders, Bob Eggleton (and even me) in order to raise Worldcon's game for artists. I think they're gonna be successful. All they want now is for the pro artists to attend and bring their art and talent to this year's show. I'll be there, and I can't wait to see how this turns out. If you're a pro artist, have a look at the show's website. This could be a very good year for us artists. Let's make this year's Worldcon a memorable one for sf/f art.