What do comic book creators Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino, Art Spiegelman, and Larry Hama, along with fashion designer Calvin Kline, and singer Tony Bennett have in common? They are all alumni of the High School of Arts and Design in New York City. Let that sink in. Imagine them all in their teens, having their own Riverdale moments, going to the homecoming dance. Prom.

Okay, I know they weren’t all at the school at the same time. The school has a long and vibrant history, with generations of students that pursued studies in animation, cartooning, graphic design, illustration, fashion, architecture, photography, and film. Heck, the place even changed its name at one point. It was originally called the School of Industrial Art, when it was founded in 1936. It landed on the name it has today in 1960. Not to mention the times it has changed locations. Again, a lot of history here.

Bringing it all back to the present, though, the High School of Art and Design is gearing up for its second annual comics festival: Fanfaire NYC ’19. The event will take place in the school itself on February 16-17.

Fanfaire’s aim is to give emerging creators some much needed exposure, a forum where their work will have the chance to become a part of the larger convention scene. But it’s also a gathering  of creators hoping to present their portfolios and pitch ideas to the kind of people that could help them make it to the big leagues. This is made obvious upon a quick glance at this year’s program.

The festival will host several portfolio review sessions. Among its reviewers are Neal Adams, Phil Jiménez, The Kubert School, Tristen Elwell, CBC Editor, and others. The panels being presented throughout the event lean heavy on the actual creative process. Adams will offer tips on inking, while Larry Hama and Adam Kubert will share their own thoughts on comics in a panel titled “How To Make Comics Better.”

One particular panel of interest is titled “Freelance isn’t Free – How to Build Yourself as an Artist and Run a Business.” Josh Adams, Wilson Ramos, and Dare2Draw are scheduled to talk about the Do’s and Don’ts of the comic book job market and how to best value one’s own creative talents.

Another unique opportunity to learn the ropes of the comics industry and survive in it comes in a panel titled “How To Develop A Thick Skin,” with Jamie Lee Rotande and Larry Hama. The official description says it all. Take a look:

World’s a tough place, but we don’t have to tell you that. When it comes to your work you may get a little defensive and protective. Understandable. That’s your soul on that page, but this class is going to teach you how to take constructive criticism, grow as an artist, and get through the editorial process.

I would strongly recommend going to this talk. Any personal creative project is made with blood, sweat, tears, and every single dime that was left in your piggy bank. Having someone point out its imperfections is tough, soul-wrenching, even! Learning how to take that criticism is a key element for survival, in any industry. I’ll be doing my best to go to this one. Even if you already have thick skin, it can always get a bit thicker.

This all leads to one of the last panels of the festival, titled “Art Spiegelman: Mural of Life,” presented by Art Spiegelman himself. The creator of Maus will talk about the mural he crafted for the school, depicting his life’s story. Spiegelman is not one for convention appearances. This will probably be one of the most anticipated panels of the festival because of it. Think about the possible lines you’ll have to make, available seats, or corners that you can squeeze into. Think Hendrix closing Woodstock.

With 150 guest artists in attendance—Vita Ayala, Amy Chu, Ramón Gil, and Alitha Martínez among them—Fanfaire ’19 is shaping up to be a comic convention for comic creators. In only its second year, this event seems as if it’s destined to grow larger in subsequent shows. So bring your portfolio, pitch an idea, or come with pen and paper to learn from the greats in a school known for helping produce greatness.