The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) is a weekend-long celebration of independent comics, inspired by Chicago’s rich legacy as home to many of underground and alternative comics’ most talented artists– past, present and future. Featuring comics for sale, workshops, exhibitions, panel discussions and more, CAKE is dedicated to fostering community and dialogue amongst independent artists, small presses, publishers and readers.That doesn't do the inclusive angle justice, though. If you've attended the show in the past, you know what I mean.
The show is actually a curated one, meaning that every application to table at CAKE is assessed individually and scored and only the top scoring folks get in. Last year, they had a little shy of 600 applicants for about 100 slots. But rather than limiting the decisioning of who gets in and who doesn't to a small handful, the number of jurors scoring those applications is around 150. And because they have so many jurors, they have a formal, written Jurying Philosophy. It reads, in part...
We hold ourselves to a broader standard than personal aesthetics in order to create the diverse and representative festival for which CAKE has become known. Additionally, CAKE strives to be a demographically inclusive show that reflects, encourages and advances the full diversity of artists working in our community.The appreciation of diversity and inclusiveness is baked into CAKE. It's part of the formal recipe of how to bring creators in. (Don't worry; I'll stop with the puns now.)
The organizers at CAKE have done a fantastic job over the years. I wasn't able to attend until its third year, but they clearly had things down really well by that point, and it's only improved every time I've went since. It's very evident that they really just want to put on a great convention for folks who like independent comics. The only real complaint I've heard is that attendees don't have enough money to buy all the cool stuff they want.
But making a concerted effort to make the show a diverse one on top of that adds to the impressiveness of the show. I've noted several times before that I want to read stories that provide a viewpoint other than that of a cishetereo white male, and because of their deliberate focus on bringing in diverse creators, there is plenty of that at CAKE. And while I know that's not the express goal of every convention, I'd love to see more shows take a more formal approach to inclusion and draw in a wider array of creators.
So, hey, any con organizers out there wanting to do that? Talk to these people!