Interesting news out of the Stumptown Comics Festival this morning. Even after relocating to the Convention Center to accommodate more exhibitors, the fest is still looking at waiting list of over 100 applicants—so instead of operating on a first-come, first-served basis for 2011, festival director Indigo Kelleigh will be curating the exhibition space. For a festival that's historically felt very inclusive, it's a marked shift.
I emailed Kelleigh to ask for some more details on how the curation process will work and what this means for the Stumptown's future:
Mercury: Are you using any fixed criteria for determining who's curated into the fest?
Kelleigh: "There are no set criteria, but I'm generally considering the way each of the artists' work would combine into the whole. The only exhibitors who are guaranteed a space are those who were on the 2010 waiting list, as we promised to them when registration was open for that show."
Is there anything in particular you're striving for in terms of variety, balance, etc?
"The overall vibe we're going for, and have always sought, is a wide-ranging variety of styles and experience levels. That said, we're also trying to bring more attention to all-ages work, which has been a little lacking of late. The application period for 2011 is still open, and we're still encouraging people to continue to apply if they want to exhibit at the show. Even though not everyone will be able to exhibit, it will give us a much better understanding of the level of demand as we begin to make plans for our 2012 Fest."
Is this a temporary fix until you find a bigger space, or a permanent policy?
"I hope this policy will be temporary, but if the demand continues to outpace our capacity we'll need to consider it as an option in the future.
When will exhibitors know if they made the cut?
"I hope to start announcing exhibitors by the end of the year. As applications are being confirmed, those exhibitors will be getting emails requesting their registration fees."
Was any consideration given to raising exhibitor fees to potentially reduce the number of applicants?
"The table price has actually gone up a bit from last year already. Given the choice, I'd prefer to add more space to accommodate more artists than to raise the prices, especially now that we're in a venue with more space to grow into. I did even consider trying to double the space for 2011 already, but another even is taking place that weekend in the adjacent space so it's not available to us at this point."
My thoughts: I'm sure there will be bruised feelings among the hundred-plus folks who don't make the cut—anecdotal evidence suggests that comics professionals suffer higher rates of von Willebrand disease than the general population (it's a condition that makes you bruise easily? Bruise joke? Nevermind.)—but this seems a sensible response to a problem that's purely logistical. I'd rather see an exhibitor list compiled with some eye toward balance than a random catchall of folks who signed up first.
[takes shot of whiskey, ducks, covers]