As the Summer gets started the convention season gains strength and the events pile up. The weekend of the 24-27 was the turn of Pittsburgh’s Anthrocon and Butler’s Monster Bash, I will focus today on the first one and talk of the latter another day.
I was rather reluctant to go to the Anthrocon because of the numerous horror stories I have heard about it coming from different people, but then I decided to be a big girl and suck up whatever came my way (after all I am 33, right?), I decided to bring my husband with me just in case… so I headed to the Convention Center. I knew I was getting close to the place because I could see a definite increase in tails, ears and eventually full fursuits.
We registered, got our badges and walked into the art area, which is what I was interested in. I wanted to do some research, look at displays to get ideas, look at products, what sells more what doesn’t, is it all furry art? Is it well organized?
I was very pleased with what I saw. The organization was very well taken care of, they really have their act together and things flow great for the most part. The art area is divided in three and it opens from the morning till 6 PM from Friday to Sunday. They also have a lot of events going on simultaneously, from videogaming to dances to panels. It reminded me a lot of the professional meetings I have attended as a biologist in structure.
In my opinion AC is very artist-friendly. They have three ways in which you can participate as an artist:
They have the artist’s alley which is free for the artists. The artists get in a lottery and if their number gets in then they can participate and get a table (shared), otherwise you might be lucky the next day. The artists are encouraged to be working on site and they are allowed to sell sketches and other products. I think this is not a bad alternative if you live in the Pittsburgh area and want to take the chance. After all you do not have to pay and the investment of going to Downtown is minimal.
Then they have the art show, which is free to enter. In the art show you are required to prepare your pieces for display, either matted of framed (no glass allowed), you reserve a space to hang your work, and your artwork goes to an auction. You can set the bid base price and the price in case it gets not sold at the end of the auction. Anthrocon charges no fee to display your work but it takes a commission of up to 15% if the art sells. The commissions are determined after the convention is done and it will vary depending on how much they have sold and if you were in the dealer’s room, in which case the commission will be smaller.
Finally they have the dealer’s room, this one you have to pay. The entry fees start at $75 for half a table for the whole weekend and it goes up depending on how much space you want. I think it is quite fair, compared to other events. They do give you a table, and you just need to bring your art and any display elements that you would need.
They had some artist stars too! James Gurney and Jim Martin as the guest of honor, and in the dealer’s room I met Ursula Vernon and I was so happy and shocked that I am sure I made a fool of myself! I might seem confident online, but I am very timid in real life and I am sure I blushed a lot trying to talk to her! I also saw Neondragon Peffer and I am sure that there were a lot of other celebrities that I am not familiar with because of my lack of involvement in the furry fandom.
I saw a lot of traffic, despite having lots of simultaneous events, the art area was full of people constantly, it was not stuffed with people but there was a constant flow, and money wise, there seemed to be a lot of traffic too. I saw many artists with signs reading “Commissions closed, come back later” or “Sketches closed, come back tomorrow”, which gave me a good feeling since it meant that they had more requests that they could deal with. Sketches and badges went for about $20 and above.
Ideas-wise, I think I like the gird cubes the best because of their low price and high versatility, plus the grid allows for hanging a lot of art in different levels. I saw a guy tattooing on site, and though I’d be very reluctant to get a tattoo in any other place but a super clean tattoo store that looks more like a surgery room (but that is me), I thought it could be a good idea to offer tattoo designs on site. I saw some sepia art that made me crazy about trying some sepia, old-fashioned things myself! And also try to go for some more dynamic artsy framing in my images, besides celtic knots.
While the organization was impeccable, I cannot say the same for the panelists… I will not give names, though, we all have bad days… I went to two art related panels, since I am not very interested in hanging out with the Foxes of California, or the Canada Hoofers. The panels I chose were an introduction to watercolors and drawing expressions. I knew it was going to be beginners level but both panelists were extremely unprepared, they did not have a good management of time, and also they barely knew what they wanted to say making for boring silences and “hey, what would you like to talk about?” statements. I guess I am used to a professional meetings environment in which you better know what you will be talking about almost to the minute! I was very disappointed by that.
All in all I think it was a really good experience, I learned a lot and got my creative juices flowing. This is a con that I would absolutely like to try to get into next year, I enjoyed the environment very much and the artists-friendliness too. The main goal would be to produce more animal art, which I do occasionally, maybe a la Holy Cow or I will always love you, but more diversity and see what happens.
AC is not a depravity environment, yes, there is porn, but it is in special sections and closed folders. I am sure there is a lot of sex going on too…. but it must be behind closed doors and if you see it is because you are looking actively for it. If you stick to the main events and the PG rated things, you can go with your kids no problem!
I was sad to see that while the artists in the Dealer’s Room might have had porn, a lot of it was super family friendly. Sadly, the Artist’s Alley was not the same case. Why would people who do not have the same pressure to sell than the dealers resort to porn? Or maybe the people who resort only to porn do not make it as well as the others and get stuck in the Artist’s Alley?
Furries are super friendly, but no one tried to go beyond a normal demonstrations of friendliness, I got a nice pat in the hand, but that is about it.
OMG, the smell!!! “Coty, it *is* a convention” you might say… but I have gone to conventions for years and I never smelled something like that. “Coty, you realize that these are not 25+ year old professionals but mostly teenagers and YA with poor hygiene habits, right?” you may ask. Yeah… I know… “And you *are* aware that there are people in fursuits that stay on those most of the day and then go dance at night, to put them on again the next morning”. Yeah, you do have a point.
Lack of food vendors. Apparently there was a concession in the artist’s room, but it closed early after lunch time. The organization was super nice providing a booklet with bars and restaurants in the area (booklet that I am planning to keep since I never know where to eat in Downtown!) but the main problem is that most things in Downtown close at 5PM, don’t open on weekends or are overpriced. It would be nice if there was some food int he convention, especially since there are activities planned until 2 AM, plus the artists cannot go out for 1 hour to eat. So if you are planning to go, you might want to pack some lunch to bring with you.