Earlier this week, the relatively new Festival Workers Association put out an open letter to Comics Arts Brooklyn with a series of asks. I want to be careful to frame these as "asks" and not "demands" because of the language being used. Consider the following bit:
"creating new circumstances is a collective struggle, for which we’re all responsible. To this end, and to provide a way forward, we’d ask that Comics Arts Brooklyn adopt the following principles"
- I'm known for being kind of acerbic about this stuff.
- Especially when it comes to fesitivals.
- Especially especially when it comes to stuff involving Fowler (I wrote two critical things last year, one right on this blog, about things run by him).
I want to be clear that my support for FWA in this case is in no way tied to any vendettas or even pre-existing attitudes I might have (well, to the extent that I can control that kind of thing). I think the FWA's language is careful and from a place of solidarity. And, independent of me, I don't think FWA is targeting CAB, as the open letter that addresses CAB is in parity with their existing general principles, also on their website, which have been up on the site since before the blog had any posts about any festival in particular.
Why you should take this seriously
With that out of the way, let's get right to the point: if the people running this show can't answer these questions, you should be concerned. I personally am no longer attending shows that do not meet these criteria, and while I think that is defensible, the bare minimum way of expressing solidarity with these concerns is forwarding the questions along as journalists, critics, or plain attendees of these festivals.
"Festivals need to open their books."
The fact that CAB has "Free Admission" gets top billing. For the person who isn't in the know, they probably assume that admission is subsidized by the sponsors. But, as most people reading this are well aware, the artists have to rent their table space.
The total amount of money that independent comic artists spent on renting tables at CAB this year, in 2018, is $48,000 dollars. This is an exact figure based on full tables, half tables, and the costs of each.
The cost to rent Pratt's entire gym starts at $360 dollars.
At least several majorly-circulated drawings used to advertise the show--including on its website--were done for free by the artist.
Where is the money going? What gap are the sponsors covering?
It's not a conspiracy
I don't watch Alex Jones. I only half know what a Qanon is. I am 100% open to the fact that there is a legitimate non-robber-barron reason that these numbers are so out of wack.
But why don't the artists pouring all of this money in and attracting visitors get to know what that reason is?
Stop. Scroll up. Read it again. Or don't, I'll block quote part of it again right here.
Why don't the artists pouring all of this money in and attracting visitors get to know where their money goes?
Any legitimate answer I can imagine in response to this is the kind of answer I would expect from a Republican high school economics teacher. "Well, it's private enterprise, it's their business what they do with the funds!"
Ok, sure, yeah. But fucking ew! Why is that a thing?? This is a legitimate concern. These artists could have banded together and put a downpayment on a fucking house just this year but instead some of them might not make enough to cover the cost of their travel and lodging!
My two cents, beyond what I've already offered, is that this and other shows deserve to fall off your radar: they don't deserve fervent social media support. Artists stand a better chance coming together and funding their own ventures than they do coming together to throw money into a lottery machine where some of them might make some back.
And at least you know where lottery money goes.