If you’re in New York City this summer, there’s only one place to be: Bluestockings Comics Festival 2020, presented by Bluestockings Bookstore in partnership with Kickstarter. Today, The Beat can exclusively announce this partnership and the return of the fest for its second annual show on Saturday, July 18 at Kickstarter HQ in Brooklyn, with more space and programming for creators and attendees.
Created by Bluestockings Events Coordinator and Collective Member Joan Dark following their departure from Flame Con, the first annual Bluestockings Comics Festival aims to feature marginalized creators and breakdown financial barriers for exhibitors and attendees. Last year’s inaugural event took place over the course of a full week at the bookstore. With more prep time and a better understanding of what would benefit creators, Dark tells The Beat that this year’s show will be even better.
“I think for what it was, the eight-day structure of last year’s fest made sense, since we had to cram both artists and attendees into the bookstore on top of our regular traffic. But because of that super short window, we were really suffering from a publicity standpoint and that, combined with weekdays generally being slower for Bluestockings, really hurt the folks who were tabling those days. I’m hoping the more traditional one-day format cuts out that problem,” Dark explains.
There are currently 40 exhibitor tables available, and there is no table fee. In an effort to uplift marginalized creators who are frequently excluded from popular narratives (and bigger shows), Bluestockings Comics Fest “is primarily looking to showcase queer and trans people of color, gender non-conforming folx, immigrants, low-income creators, disabled folx, intersex folx, Middle Eastern + Arab + North African creators, East + South Asian creators, indigenous creators.”
Creator applications for Bluestockings Comics Festival 2020 are open from now until Sunday, February 28 at 12 a.m. EST. Vendors who want to sell their books at the show but cannot attend can also apply to have their books sold at the Bluestockings table, though there will be limited space. Creators who are interested in tabling or selling through Bluestockings can both apply using this form.
“Too often, the arts are a pay to play game,” said Camilla Zhang, Comics Outreach Lead at Kickstarter, in a statement. “Making a living as an artist is hard enough, and when you’re exhibiting at a convention or festival, you have to hustle to make enough sales to break even on table fees, along with food, lodging, and travel costs. That’s why we decided to cover all the table fees—in total $2,000 to Bluestockings— as well as providing lunch for vendors and staff, and offering stipends to workshop leaders.”
This year, Bluestockings Comics Festival will feature programming and panels in addition to exhibitors; applications close at 12 a.m. EST on Sunday, March 8.
“The big thing we wanted to emphasize with our workshop plans this year is that workshops are going to be curated with the idea of providing resources to both the comics community and professionals,” Dark tells The Beat. Anyone who’s accepted to lead/organize a workshop will be paid a stipend for their time, with panels being more of an informal discussion around whatever the theme is and curated accordingly.”
Although the show is taking place at a larger venue, Dark says they wanted to keep in mind the feedback they got from last year’s attendees and exhibitors regarding the size and vibe of the festival.
“There’s always going to be a place for huge shows like SPX or TCAF that give a chance for a lot of creators to shine, but we heard from a lot of folks how nice it was that you didn’t have to stress about making time to see everyone, that connections were that much more special because it wasn’t a race around a huge convention center,” Dark says. “Our hope is that people can still enjoy getting to connect with creators and talk about comics without feeling overloaded at the end of the day.”
“What are we here for if not to make this world more compassionate?” Zhang tells The Beat. “Sometimes you have to start small to prove to others that such a place can exist. And that’s what Bluestockings Comics Festival is for me.”
Bluestockings Comics Festival 2020 is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST at Kickstarter HQ, 58 Kent St., Brooklyn, on Saturday, July 18.
The full press release follows.
Bluestockings Comics Fest 2020 at Kickstarter HQ
A Free Event Celebrating and Showcasing Comics by Queer and Trans Creators this July 18, 2020
BROOKLYN, N.Y., Jan. 23 — Kickstarter PBC is excited to host the 2020 Bluestockings Comics Fest at their Greenpoint, Brooklyn headquarters on Saturday, July 18. Free and open to the public from 11AM to 6PM, this event is designed to celebrate and showcase comics by queer and trans creators. The fest will include panels and professional development workshops, as well as a wide range of exhibitors. Unlike other comics events and conferences, Kickstarter and Bluestockings Comics will not be charging a table fee, ensuring creators will have the opportunity to maximize their earnings.
“Too often, the arts are a pay to play game,” said Camilla Zhang, Comics Outreach Lead at Kickstarter. “Making a living as an artist is hard enough, and when you’re exhibiting at a convention or festival, you have to hustle to make enough sales to break even on table fees, along with food, lodging, and travel costs. That’s why we decided to cover all the table fees—in total $2,000 to Bluestockings— as well as providing lunch for vendors and staff, and offering stipends to workshop leaders.”
Bluestockings is a volunteer-powered, collectively-owned radical bookstore and activist center in New York City. Kickstarter is proud to align with Bluestockings’ mission of providing literature and resources about oppression, intersectionality, community organizing, and activism, and sharing the stories of marginalized people.
“This is truly a unique partnership, because comics conventions are normally run by a single organization whose entire business model runs on conventions,” said Joan Dark, Events Coordinator at Bluestockings. “Since Bluestockings and Kickstarter work to uplift creators and support marginalized communities, the fest is a natural extension of wanting to do as much as we can to directly support queer and trans comics artists.”
Camilla and Joan are seeking guidance from members of the Festival Workers Association to ensure the event is completely made for and by the comics community. By prioritizing accessibility, both long-standing comics professionals and emerging artists can make meaningful connections with each other and with comics fans.
With space for up to 40 exhibitors at this time, the festival is primarily looking to showcase queer and trans people of color, gender non-conforming folx, immigrants, low-income creators, disabled folx, intersex folx, Middle Eastern + Arab + North African creators, East + South Asian creators, indigenous creators, and marginalized creators as a whole who are excluded for one reason or another from popular narratives.
Creators can apply here. Folks who are unable to attend can still have a chance to sell their books at the Bluestockings table and can use the same application, which closes at Midnight EST on Sunday, February 28. Workshop and panel applications can be found here and will close at Midnight EST on Sunday, March 8. Stipends will be offered to workshop leaders. All applications will go through a curation process overseen by Bluestockings volunteers and Kickstarter representatives, with a focus on black and brown creators and folx working to highlight social justice issues.
Bluestockings (bluestockings.com) is a collectively owned, queer and trans run bookstore based out of the Lower East Side in New York City. Originally opened up as Bluestockings Women’s Bookstore in 1999, Bluestockings Bookstore, Activist Center and Fair Trade Cafe continues to serve as a hub for marginalized voices and is the only bookstore in New York where folks can find dedicated sections for #BlackLivesMatter, sex work, postcolonial fiction and much, much more. Bluestockings Queer and Trans Comics Fest is Bluestockings’ biggest venture into directly supporting the work of marginalized creators, as part of Bluestockings’ mission (http://bluestockings.com/
about/mission/) to distribute literature and resources about oppression, intersectionality, community organizing, activism and building connections, knowledge, and skills in our communities.
Joan Dark, Events Coordinator and Collective Member at Bluestockings, [email protected]
Kickstarter, PBC (kickstarter.com) is where creative projects come to life — everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Since its launch in 2009, over 17 million people have pledged $4.75 billion on Kickstarter, funding more than 176,000 projects. Kickstarter is a Public Benefit Corporation based in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a team of 150 people.
Kate Bernyk, Director of Communications at Kickstarter, [email protected]