ICE CREAM: the Iowa City Expo for Comics + Real Eclectic Alternative Media
Public Space One — Sat., Apr. 9 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For cartoonists, bookmakers and other independent artists, few outlets exist in Iowa City to share and sell work — but this year, Mission Creek Festival will include a space for them at ICE CREAM: the Iowa City Expo for Comics + Real Eclectic Alternative Media, at Public Space One this Saturday.
Though a plethora of comics are available online, Iowa City cartoonist and ICE CREAM organizer Dave Dugan believes there is something to be said for the tangible object of a comic or handmade book. A reader can hold it, turn the pages and take in the words and drawings slowly.
“It becomes a little more real, where it’s easy to just scroll past something online and be done with it,” Dugan says. “If you actually have the thing, it’s easy to read again. It’s easy to share with other people.”
An event like ICE CREAM also allows for face-to-face connection and interaction between creators and their audience.
“It’s easy for that to be missing with online content, where something gets passed around on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or whatever,” Dugan says. “If you actually talk to the person who made something and actually hold the real thing, it’s very different from scrolling past it on your phone.”
While the number of comic festivals and expos is growing across the nation, many of these events have limited space. CAKE, the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo that takes place each summer, typically has around 800 applicants and space for only 200 artists.
“That’s 600 artists who don’t get a spot,” says Dugan. “It’s been this exponential growth in people wanting space in festivals.”
Driven by a desire to share his work and others’, Dugan helped organize ICE CREAM with the support of Mission Creek Festival and Public Space One. For several years, Mission Creek Festival has included the Literary Magazine & Small Press Book Fair at The Mill, but there has never been an event specifically for comic artists. Marketed to the greater Midwest comic community, Dugan hopes to draw in the artists who didn’t get a place at CAKE or other shows around the country. Available on a first come, first serve basis, spots cost artists $10. Registration opened on Feb. 16.
Dugan is a member of the Iowa City Press Co-Op at Public Space One, which seemed like a natural venue for the event. The co-op provides equipment, workspace and opportunities for artists interested in printmaking, bookbinding and papermaking. Dugan wanted to involve independent bookmakers as well as cartoonists, such as the artists in the University of Iowa Center for the Book.
“Most of the people that have applied are cartoonists, but there’s also some overlap,” Dugan says. “Some of the cartoonists will have things like buttons and prints. There’s also a fairly good number of people who make zines, maybe more geared toward writing or a political point of view. But stuff like that also has drawings. It’s hard to pigeonhole it as one or the other.”
Dugan’s own work is varied and unusual. One object he sells is an accordion comic book folded up inside a small music box. His subject matters range from a comparison of David Bowie to an Egon Schiele painting, restaurant comics based on Dugan’s years of working in the restaurant industry with Soviet Union immigrants and stories from a retired coal miner who was Dugan’s neighbor in Colorado.
ICE CREAM will include food and a small reading room, so people can stop in and browse a zine between other festival events, even if they don’t want to purchase anything. Dugan’s hope, though, is that visitors will find something they might want to buy. His own books will sell for around $3 a piece.
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“A lot of the stuff isn’t that expensive in the grand scheme of things,” Dugan says. “For the price of a beer or two, I hope that people will say, ‘This is kind of cool.’ Skip one beer and buy this.”
Dugan hopes the event will take off, and that in the future, it might become something that happens more than once a year, in coordination with the end-of-semester art sales at Public Space One or the City of Literature Book Fair that takes place on the Pedestrian Mall each fall.
“We’re trying to pool our resources in the artistic community, so where before we didn’t really have anything, now you might have three or four events a year where independent artists might have the opportunity to sell stuff,” he says.