A handy guide to media fan convention art shows

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Title: A handy guide to media fan convention art shows
Creator: the shoshanna
Date(s): January 23, 2010
Medium: online, journal post
External Links: A handy guide to media fan convention art shows; archive link
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A handy guide to media fan convention art shows is a 2010 essay by the shoshanna.

the shosnanna was a long-time runner of the Escapade art show and auction.

Some Topics Discussed

Most of the Post

See the original post for the internal links, which are not included here.

And I really should specify that I'm talking here about small -- like, 100-1000 people or so, Escapade and Con.Txt and MediaWest*Con and the like -- fan-run media conventions, which are what I have experience with. I've never been to an Otakon or Dragon*Con or anything like that, and they are probably very different!

Fan art has doubtless been around as long as fan fiction, maybe longer, but in the days of dead-tree fandom it was harder to share: pictures don't stand up as well as text to being multiply photocopied, let alone retyped. *g* So just as fans shared fanfic and art in the zines that were and are displayed, shared, bought, and sold in convention dealers' rooms, one of the places that fans shared, admired, and bought and sold fan art was in convention art shows. And although much fan art, like much fanfic and other fannish stuff, has moved onto the Internet, con art shows continue, offering you the chance to see and share and drool on -- and even buy and sell -- "hard-copy" fannish artistic creations of all kinds, created as long ago as the 1970s or as recently as last week, in media as diverse as pen and ink, oil paint, yarn and fabric, semiprecious stones, and silicone. Many art shows (including Escapade's) also welcome non-art items of fannish interest, resales (i.e., you don't have to be the artist to put something in the show), and, hell, anything else that might be fun for people to see! If the con has a charity (Escapade's is Food Share, the Ventura County food bank), sellers often designate some items to be sold for its benefit.

Most art shows expect that items in the show will be relevant to the con's interests. Some have formally required it: ZebraCon, for instance, a con that focused on cop and spy partnerships (think Starsky and Hutch), went through a period of insisting that everything in the art show have something to do with such genres, which occasionally led to hilarious attempts to argue that a picture of a cuddly bunny was, uh, an illustration from an unwritten fantasy shapeshifter AU! or something. They gave that up after a while. Escapade doesn't have any genre requirements like that, but since the con is the longest-running slash con in the world (whee!) and tends to like its porn straight up, no chaser, hot slashy things definitely tend to do better in the art show than, oh, cuddly bunnies. But I've also seen fannish knitwear, classic zines, jewelry, and cleverly decorated clocks be very well received, and heaven knows you can't go wrong with chocolate.

Items may be displayed hung on flats, set on tables, or propped on chairs that are set on tables, depending on the show's size, professionalism, and resources. Usually (and always at Escapade) each has a tag attached to it telling browsers its title, artist, medium, and other useful info, and if it's for sale, also a price or minimum bid. If you want to buy or bid on a piece, you write your name (or other ID; large cons sometimes ask would-be buyers to register in advance, and issue them bidder numbers) on the tag, along with your bid if it's an auction item. If you're the first buyer for a fixed-price item, or the high bidder on an auction item when the show closes, you get to buy it and take it home and cuddle it forever!

Many shows, including Escapade, culminate in a voice auction, where everything that got more than a certain number of written bids (could be two, could be seven; depends on the show's size and the time available) is auctioned off in an atmosphere of solemn reverence and hushed silence.

Or, you know. NOT.

Even before I ever got involved in con art shows myself, I always found auctions to be one of the best parts of a con; they're almost always high-energy and hilarious. Ever seen three art show staffers demonstrate Batman's utility belt as envisioned by a really creative fan with plenty of spare time and some frighteningly good molding tools? Ever seen people frantically passing a dollar bill the length and breadth of the room, laughing hysterically as they try to goad each bidder into topping the previous one? Ever seen an auctioneer totally out one of her biggest kinks in front of pretty much the con's entire membership? (Oh, come on, I only did that once. It was a really pretty picture. *cough*) Whether or not you're bidding or have something in the show yourself, it's always worth checking out the auction -- and if you didn't have a chance to browse the art show before then, it's your last chance to ogle all the pretty before it goes home with someone else. Unless you decide to bid on it right then, of course!

I've been running the Escapade art show since 1992, and it's always been one of the high points of my fannish year. If you have art, t-shirts, crafty things, any sort of fannish or slashy bric-a-brac that you'd like to display (whether or not you want to sell it), comment here or drop me a line! We'd love to have you in the show. If you won't be at the con, you can mail things in. And if you will be at the con and would like to volunteer for the art show, we'd love that too. We hope to hear from you -- enjoy the show!

Some Fan Comments at the Post


We all like your art shows because you wear short skirts. It's a trufax.

[tracy rowan]: LOL, how to terrify artists?

In all honesty, I was pretty much flying blind at the start. I'd had work in art shows but never was involved in working on them, so when I took over at ZCon I went into it armed with a long list of ideas on how to do it right and not screw anyone in the process. I'm glad you feel you learned some valuable lessons.