St John's River Art Festival Vs Free Comic Book Day, Part Two


Last week, we had a brief look at the conflict kicking off in Florida regarding a Free Comic Book Day event that had been kiboshed over its conflict with… an Art Festival. The St John's River Festival of the Arts. All of them, except comic books.

Well everyone got in touch wanting their take on the events. Jim Vanhise reminded us,

In the early 1990s, the San Diego Comicon applied to the state of California Arts Council for a grant but they were rejected because "comic books are not art."

Nancy Morris wrote,

The city did not plan this event. It is the St. Johns River Art group that plan it and are being nasty about it. The citizens are angry about it and plan on having our own boycott and supporting Smash.

Sumaphelia added,

Everyone in town is outraged that such a wonderful, inclusive business is being excluded by a very small group of elitist, old school, out of touch event organizers, and we have all been working very hard to show our support for SMASH. Downtown Sanford is an awesome, accepting community of diverse people, and yet it seems that our whole population is constantly being grouped in with a small handful of people who suck, and our town suffers in the process. As a Sanford writer and blogger, I am constantly putting out positive content about the great events and cool people who actually reflect the character of our community, and it is absolutely crushing to see our town's name attached to such a crap attitude with the flourish of someone else's pen.

Ryan countered,

This has nothing to do with anyone thinking that comic art is not real art. Of course it is. That is not in question. The thing is that you can't just merge another event into a fine art show that's taken over a year to plan and no one on the festival board would have told you otherwise. This is a juried event. The artists all applied, paid a jury fee, sent in sample images and a booth shot and were chosen in that manner. It's a process that takes months. Many artists apply to these shows & don't get in. It has nothing to do with elitism. I see plenty of comic artists at shows. But of course, they are doing their own artwork. These shows allow original art only. The prospectus for this show, and all others, clearly states: No art supplies, picture frames, commercial photography, kits, commercial patterns, coin jewelry or works cast in commercial molds, mass produced items or buy/resell will be accepted or displayed. ABSOLUTELY NO BUY/SELL/MANUFACTURED items will be allowed.

Further down in the prospectus, this is repeated: The Artist must be present. No stand-in exhibitors, dealers, agents or wholesalers. The Festival committee reserves the right to ask any Artist for identification. There will be only one Artist permitted to exhibit in a space. All work must be attributed solely to the exhibiting artist. All works must be for sale or available for commission. NO DISPLAYS CONTAINING MANUFACTURED – BUY/RESELL ITEMS are allowed.

Those are the rules. And every one of us has to abide by them. I've never once, in ten+ years, seen a fine art festival bend those rules. Original art only and the artist has to be present during the entire event.

If the city told you otherwise, your beef should be with them. I can assure you that the festival promoters would NOT have told you or anyone, that you could participate in the event without following the rules stated above. It simply didn't happen like that.

I'm sorry if the city mislead you. That would be irresponsible of them. I ask all of you though, to please reconsider the crappy things being posted on the festival's FB page. All that could ever accomplish is to potentially hurt the income of 160 artists, most of whom rely solely on these shows to keep a roof over their heads & feed their families. Your beef is not with them. They've done nothing wrong. They have no control over such matters. They're (we're) just trying to earn a living. We pay quite a bit for jury fees, booth fees, hotel, gas, food & other show expenses. We do not deserve to lose our asses due to misdirected anger. Trying to interfere with the livelihood of people who have done you no harm is pretty screwed up. Think about it

But one John M Zawacki who found their work appearing on the event website had their own issues.

OK what about the Art festival using my photos to promote their event without obtaining a license to do so? What about me as an artist and my income?… I have already taken the first step cease and desist. In the process of proceeding further.

While City Commissioner, and get this, Art Woodruff has issued the following statement.

The art festival is a juried event. Artists apply and this year 50 were turned down. For the festival to now allow new artists could lead to claims from artists that were turned down. I don't pretend to understand the art show business, but it is not a simple case of the art show not allowing comic books as art.

The comic book day event is not an art show. It was to include a dj, performances, and a Ghostbusters vehicle. Through miscommunication, misunderstanding, and getting permission to use space from the wrong organization, Smash thought they had permission to hold their event. The city never granted a permit so permission was not withdrawn by the city. The city did tell Smash that they did not have permission to hold an event. Stores are allowed four sidewalk sales each year. That may have been part of the confusion.

The art festival can choose artists, vendors, and performances for their event. They cannot grant permission to another organization to hold an event. Based on the space requested and the activities proposed, they were not agreeable to relinquish space they had reserved for the store to hold an event in the midst of the art show. They suggested space behind the store might be available. But the decision to allow the comic book event is the city's not the art festival's.

Smash comics agrees that the space behind the store will allow them to hold their event. It's not an ideal space, but it is adjacent to the store, and has access to First, Palmetto, and Commercial. The Civic Center may also now be available, but it is not adjacent to the store.

The City Manager is now working with staff and the attorney to see if permission can be granted to use the alley. The procedure is to submit an application 60 days in advance, have all city departments vet the application, and then have the City Commission approve it. There is not a Commission meeting scheduled between now and May 6 so a special meeting might be required and the city will have to ignore the application requirements. 

We have an event in its sixth year that has a permit for a particular event. We have a business on First Street that we want to support. While not ideal for either, we may be able to satisfy both events and next year we will have time to work out a better plan. 

Please give the City until Monday afternoon to try to work out a solution. 

Will do, Art! Good luck!

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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