Monday, November 18, 2013

Billy Ireland Festival, Day Four & Wrap-Up

All good things must come to an end, and so Sunday turned out to be the last day of the 2013 Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum Grand Opening Festival of Cartoon Art. By comparison, it was a quiet day with the first talk not beginning until 1:00. They were running behind-the-scenes tours of the Library facilities throughout the morning, as well as having some kid-focused events. Many attendees had to leave on Sunday (because they've got, you know, jobs to go back to this morning) so that all made sense.

The tour was incredible. The staff's workspace is much larger and more comfortable than the cramped quarters they were in before. It looks like they'll be able to work without worrying about eye strain from inadequate lighting or back pain from being hunched over a space meant to house much less than it is. It seemed like there were just acres of material in their stacks, but now there's actually room for it. As I think about it, the tour group I was with consisted of a dozen people or so; that simply could not have happened in the old place -- there wasn't room for that many to stand, much less walk through!

The two talks I was able to attend were with Brian Bassett and Kazu Kibuishi. (I had to leave before the last panel in which Jeff Smith presented some classic Bugs Bunny cartoons.) I really like both Bassett's and Kibuishi's work, and it was great to see/hear them in person. As you might surmise from their work, they're both charming and optomistic, and were absolutely thrilled to be making their careers doing things they love.

I haven't been online much the past few days because of the event, but the smattering of responses I've seen thus far include words like: exhilerating, restorative, wonderful, amazing... If I had to disagree with any of those, it would only be in that they're woefully inadequate. Not that I have any better adjectives to describe the past several days. Everyone I talked to, to a person, was completely awestruck. The panels, the interactions, the ideas, the connections... I really can't say enough about what a fantastic experience this was.

I was by no means privy to any of the planning that went into the event, nor was I aware of any issues that may have occurred during the weekend that Caitlin or Jenny or someone had to resolve to avert a potential crisis. But from my vantage point, the whole weekend came off without a hitch. The closest thing I heard from ANYone that even resembled a complaint was that it would take several days or weeks for them to process everything. I was seeing several people posting on Facebook early this morning, despite being exhausted, because their heads are just swimming with too many ideas right now.

I was fortunate that I happened to run into Lucy Caswell as I was leaving yesterday. It seemed serendipitous that she was the very last person I saw at the event. I don't recall exactly what I said, but it was largely an effusive ramble on how fantastic everything was. She politely said thank you (I'm sure she doesn't know me from anyone) and hoped that I could come to the next one in three years. But she seemed most excited when I responded that I would be back before then to do some more research.

And I think that was what really made the event so incredibly brilliant -- that all of these great creators and thinkers-about-comics were able to share ideas and bounce off one another in these marathon 18-hour days in the shadow of all this phenomenal material that's now housed and displayed properly was just phenomenally energizing. That everything and everyone there was about the advancement of comics, and everyone left both exhausted and energized.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a TON of research to dive into!

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