February 23 kicked off a new event series at Central Library, Cool Work x Interesting People (CWxIP). Co-curated by award-winning cartoonist and head publisher at Diskette Press, Carta Monir, and myself, CWxIP features six indie cartoonists leading unique monthly workshops, culminating on June 15, 2019.
The series title derives from the Carta-helmed podcast, We Should Be Friends, self-described as a “podcast about cool work by interesting people.” It is in the same spirit that Carta and I organized a lineup of creators who are actively critiquing their own community, as well as forming networks of support for fellow cartoonists, in an effort to center people of color and queer or otherwise marginalized experiences and voices. The roster includes Hannah K. Lee, Cathy G. Johnson, Laura Lannes, Whit Taylor, Xia Gordon, and Carta herself.
This programming is cartoonist-driven, which means that the focus of each session is on the cartoonist and the themes of their work. As opposed to picking a topic and then looking for a cartoonist who fits within that scope, it’s important to me that a creator is the foundation for the workshop and they are the ones who guide the shape of it, which has led to a diverse group of topics in the series—from comics in the classroom to comics about health. Often I see libraries wanting cartoonists to adjust themselves to fit within the library’s needs or culture, but I think it should be the other way around. How can libraries change their systems and processes to make it easier to include self-published or small/micropress-published work in our collections? Libraries can provide space and resources to creators so they can feasibly continue to make innovative work that we can add to our collections and make available to patrons.
Libraries can start to support cartoonists even more by offering free workshops and discussions, with materials provided so that cartoonists and artists at any level can learn and develop their work in a supportive and accessible environment. Additionally, we can develop a collection that includes work that is often only available at an indie comics festival or on a creator’s website until it’s sold out. By doing this, libraries can continue introducing counter-narratives to library patrons who are underrepresented in dominant comics culture, whether they are new or established comics readers.
In addition to building readership and providing community and education, another aspect of supporting cartoonists is in ensuring that they can continue to make work by hiring them to lead workshops and discussions, or even design materials . In the case of CWxIP, we were able to commission cartoonist and illustrator, Fifi Martinez, to design the flyer which was then colored by Carta. Carta’s micropress, Diskette (and CWxIP co-sponsor), printed all of the flyers and postcards, in addition to the zine we produced to go along with the series. The zine is a joint publication by Diskette and BPL, and features original comics from Carta, Cathy, Laura, and Whit, related to each of their programs. We’ll be giving copies out to CWxIP program attendees only, and once the series ends in June we hope to make it available digitally, and will also add print copies to BPL’s collection.