Posts Tagged ‘mediawest’

MediaWestCon: Art show review

May 27th, 2009

I have been an exhibitor in the MediaWest artshow, on and off, for the past 12-13 years or so. And to be totally blunt it is very sad to see the way the art show has gone downhill during that time, especially in the past 2-3 years.

And by going downhill, I don’t mean the quality of the work exhibited: there has always been and still is a full range of technical art skills presented, from extremely talented pro/semi-pro artists to beginning/young amateur artists. Crafts from jewelry to knitting to etched granite were on display along with paintings, drawings, and a large amount of photography and photo-manipulations. But the amount of art and the number & variety of artists exhibiting has dwindled dramatically. This year I don’t think the art room was more than 1/3 full–both the tables for 3D art and panels for 2D. Even some of the artists who are regular, big contributors like Jesse McClain only had one panel’s worth of submissions, instead of taking up a full standing bay as she usually does.

So why the downturn? Easily the first reason is the terrible, last minute way the convention handles space reservations for artists, which has only gotten worse and worse each year. This year the Progress Report with the art show reservation form was not mailed out or put on the website until May 3, 2009, and interested artists were told they only had until May 10 to submit reservations! (Never mind that after that date, an update mentioned space still available. No kidding!) Artists also need to have a supporting membership to hang art–and the con rules/website state that memberships can only be bought up until May 1. Also it can take a long time to actually RECEIVE your membership number after paying for one–good luck getting it to you in a week’s time.

Another problem, especially for artists who might be considering mailing in artwork, is the inability to get your multi-part forms mailed to you in time. The convention should seriously consider going to forms that could be downloaded by artists on-line, even if yes, that would then require the artshow staff to create a computer database to keep track of art pieces and bids instead of multi-part forms. But that too could avoid a lot of problems at check-out with pieces missing, winning bids being mis-reported, or not reported at all. But for the past three years running, it has always been about 50-50 whether I would actually receive my forms in the mail before leaving for the convention–and when they did arrive, it was usually with only a day to spare. This basically completely rules out the possibility of mail-in art being submitted, making the only option for artists who can’t attend to be to find someone who is attending to agent your art. (One small thing done this year to help with future issues about the forms is artists were given forms for next year at check out. Great for the regular, small group of artists who habitually show and attend. This will do nothing to help with new artists who weren’t here this year.)

The convention, if it intends to continue to have a good art show, needs to work to correct these registration and paperwork issues if they are going to have any chance of attracting new artists to exhibiting. There might be an impression that the convention is only for “fan-art”, but that’s definitely not the case. Some of the pieces which seem to consistently sell the best are animal/wildlife art, fantasy, and jewelry. This year I submitted some of my astronomical artwork instead of any fanart, and sold 5 of the 8 paintings I showed (along with at least 2/3rds of the jewelry pieces I submitted.) Of course, a fanart oil painting I’d shown for the past two years in the artshow, never getting a bid (at a very low starting bid), I sold off my dealer’s room table this year at a much better price. Go figure! So perhaps the artshow isn’t even the best place for artists to exhibit and try to sell their work at the convention…

That said, there are also buyer issues as well which could be discouraging to new artists, as MWC certainly has a very clique-ish feel to it and that carries over into what (and from whom) people will buy. This year I was agenting for a new jewelry artist who does wonderful work, was all priced very reasonably — and she only received 2 bids out of the 16 pieces she’d shown. I’ve seen a lot of hesitation regularly from bidding on “unknown” artists at MWC, no matter the quality of the work. So it’s an environment of buying from your friends and known fellow fans more so than buying the best, most interesting art.

I’m sure the art show staff has to be aware of these issues at this point. What I’m less sure of is whether they care at all enough to do anything about them. As the entire convention feels like it is just going on because it’s been going on for almost thirty years, there for the fans who remain but not working to bring in new blood, I have my doubts and am not sure I’d recommend the convention to artists who haven’t been regularly showing there already.

MediaWestCon – Day 1

May 23rd, 2009

Just a quick missive from MediaWest. First day seemed very, very quiet. While there was the usual feeding frenzy for the first hour in the dealer’s room, after that it pretty much turned into a ghost town the rest of the day. The art show looks very sparse this year – only the most usual suspects hanging their work, and some of those even with half of what they usually show on display. Lots of empty tables and panels so far. Even the dealer’s room had a number of no-shows, or people only coming in to set up at the end of the day Friday.

Flyers out in the lobby are also quite sparse–though there certainly are quite a few for Star Trek and Kirk/Spock about. Haven’t had the chance to check out the room sales and doors yet, hopefully later today when I also have my first panel.

Will have to see how the rest of the convention goes…

Off to MediaWest tomorrow…

May 20th, 2009

Tomorrow I’m off to MediaWestCon, which should be interesting this year in a number of ways. I’ve heard some speculation that with the changes in the host hotel (now a Causeway Bay), along with the continuing and ever-growing sluggishness of the organizers dealing with convention matters, that we may be nearing the end of MWC’s run. Probably not this year, but perhaps next as 2010 will be the con’s 30 year anniversary.

Of course, this is all speculation at this point. We’ll have to wait and see what happens or what the word is this weekend.

Still, I am curious about a number of things this year, including:

* How will sales be in the dealer’s room and art show, given the current economy? (Especially in Michigan, with so many car manufacturing plants closing shop.)

* What will be the hot fandoms this time around? Will everyone be talking about Star Trek, or is the film too new to get a lot of “official” scheduled time and attention? What about Torchwood, Merlin and other buzzed-about shows?

* Will hot topics in journaling media fandom, such as Race Fail and Dreamwidth Studios be talked about at all? Or are they off the radar for the more “old school” fandom base that makes up the bulk of MWC’s membership?

I’ll try to post some daily blogs from the convention with my impressions on these issues, as well as anything else that comes up, and of course update with photos and other items from the convention after I get home next week.

Star Trek: The Next Generation of fans?

May 6th, 2009

The summer movie season is about to start with one of the most anticipated releases in scifi fandom in some time: the new Star Trek movie. Trek fandom has been abuzz about it for some time, although the anticipation has been mixed with some anxiety: will the film do The Original Series and its beloved characters justice? Will it sacrifice the heart of Trek for big Hollywood pizazz?

A more critical question, in my opinion, and one I have heard echoed in some Trek fandom circles, is whether the film can do anything to revive what is, in many ways, a dying fandom. It has been several years since the last Trek series, Enterprise was on the air–a series which in and of itself had alientated many longtime Trek fans and had did little to keep interest strong in the franchise. Trek conventions are few and far between these days, with few (save Shore Leave and Farpoint) except the massive Creation Cons still being held. With the exception of a few still-strong shipping and slash communities, notably Kirk/Spock, fanworks production is greatly diminished.

That said, there does seem to be some steady growth in Trek livejournal community activity in recent months–perhaps due to the movie? The presence of popular Heroes actor Zachary Quinto as Spock may do well to bring in some crossover fans. But the long-term impact on the fandom will take some time to see.

I will be curious to see what the buzz about the film is at this year’s MediaWest, which will be taking place at the end of this month.

MediaWest con report: Pre-planning, Thursday, Friday

May 30th, 2008

In April, my primary activity involving Fan History was in promoting the wiki on-line. The results? Fan History‘s traffic was up 254% on the year.

And then May. For Fan History, May was a jammed pack month. Trying to continue to promote Fan History on-line. Switching over from VPS to a dedicated server. Big daily increase in traffic. Administrator turnover. RecentChangesCamp. ACEN 2008. MediaWest 2008. Following up on all three, all of which were different types. Camp. As a press attendee. As a dealer. For most of the month, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

MediaWest was the third of three events I had for the month and the one I was most nervous about attending. I’m a fandom history geek. The more I learn, the more I know nothing. I knew just enough about Fan History, well, to make me really nervous. The FanQs trace their roots back to friction with science fiction fandom awards. MediaWest as a touchstone to off-line fandom in the past and the present. Paula Smith, who named Mary Sue and did a whole bunch of other things for fandom, would likely be there. This convention was full of people who I knew of, had heard of and respected for their place in fandom history.

Did I mention I was all flaked out about attending this convention? I just want to be sure that my audience knows that. I pestered a number of fandom acquaintances about the whole thing. What was it like? Would people know who I was? Did the convention have an audience that would be open to Fan History? How should I handle it if I ran across people I wanked/fought with before? Would I be on my own or would I have friends there? Could I survive the politics of fandom? The answers I got from my acquaintances were at times highly contradictory. Nervous. Nervous.

My prep work for Fan History and myself, pestering my friends aside, included printing up stickers. I already had handouts from ACEN 2008. Sidewinder had printed everything else up. I just had to pack my clothes, rent the car, make sure I had a hotel room. I think, if you’re a dealer, you should do more. But I’m me and May was stressful.

I left Illinois around noon, arrived in Lansing after an uneventful four hour drive. I got in, called my room mate who told me to check in, and then called Sidewinder, to find out when she would arrive in. I had four hours to kill so I called Kay. I talked to Kay, offered to pick up her and her friends from Tim Hortons so they wouldn’t have to walk. Then I killed time with them at Tim Hortons and their hotel room. That involved some interesting conversations. FanLib is still very much a sore point with some people. Legal issues involving fandom are very interesting. My dad’s cookies are mighty tasty. Sara Sidle on CSI may or may not be hot but don’t mess with another fan’s OTP. … Especially when said fan is a Harry Potter fan. Also, yeah, it frequently comes down to who we find physically attractive. When Sidewinder got in, Kay showed me the Dealer’s Room and I sort of helped Sidewinder unpack and foisted wine and cookies off on her. I also set up my table with all the YAY! flyers and hand outs Sidewinder had printed. Then I went out with Sidewinder and Dave, her Doctor boyfriend guy, and ate a nice local bar where we had appetizers, alcohol and pub grub. My pub grub included pizza. (And said pizza later became Sidewinder’s breakfast.) When I got back, I spent a long time chatting with my room mate about a great many things, including how we met in fandom.

Woke up early Friday. Got myself some donuts and hot chocolate from Tim Hortons. Pretty tasty. Real donuts. Not southern style krispy kreme ick. Went back to the hotel. Uploaded some pictures I took the day before. Killed time. Then moseyed over to dealer’s room with my laptop to kill time. I talked to a lot of really nice people. I made Nicole talk to a lot of really nice people. I learned more about the Blake’s 7 fandom than I knew before. Conversations began to blend. I offered to drive get food. I went to Wendys. I bought food. And then I got back and lost my keys. This involved much drama. I had to report my keys lost. I had to ask con security and the hotel to keep an eye on them. I stressed and flaked myself out. I have to applaud everyone involved at the convention and hotel for being very helpful and kind. (I didn’t find my keys until Sunday afternoon. Much drama involved with that. And I was extremely embarrassed at where they did turn up.) I didn’t do any panels because I was manning Fan History‘s dealer’s table. Lots of plugging that Fan History was working on becoming a fandom directory, that anyone could edit it, that we have no notability requirement, that having some friction in who is telling the history can be good for the history and cited the Rescue Rangers article as a good example of this. Friday night, went out can’t remember where. Had appetizers maybe and ribs and chicken and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Sat around Sidewinder’s hotel room/dealing out of her room room and talked fandom shit for a bit. Then went back to my hotel room and repeated with my roommate and her friend. Went to sleep really late.

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