International Webcomic Showcase Tour
Submitted by Twin Tattoo on June 17, 2006 - 16:33
I will be soon meeting with the director of a contemporary art museum about doing a possible showcase tour of webcomics at contemporary art museums world-wide. What I would appreciate is constructive input on how to set up such a tour so it can be more fine-tuned and solid when I talk to her. Here is my current idea on how it could be done:
Twenty webcomic artists would be chosen to have their work featured on the tour. The idea is to show the broad spectrum of webcomics today. In other words, all twenty won't be gamer webcomics. Ten of the spots will be reserved and offered to the most popular webcomics to draw in the crowds. The other ten would be stellar examples of fine artwork and help present the broad spectrum of webcomics today. In other words, the second ten would fill in the spectrum gaps the most popular webcomics leave void. Yes, that might even mean a furry webcomic would be part of the tour.
The only webcomics that would be considered are ones that offer their current installments and archives free to the public. When talking to the director over the phone, this is something she is very adamant about. That and they have to have a substantial archive and a solid history of regularly posting new installments at least once a week. The more times a week, the better. Ten would be selected based on their web traffic and the other ten would be selected for how they fill in the spectrum gaps, as explained in the previous paragraph. Which second ten would be approached would be heavily influenced by who the first ten recommend for such consideration. All twenty would have to commit to attending the end of the month "meet the artists" events (see two paragraphs below).
Each webcomic artist would have to make a complete story arc that would be enlarged, printed, and then hung on the museum walls. This story arc would be an original and not put on the net until after the tour is done. The reason for this original exclusive is to provide further incentive for the fans of these webcomics to come to the museums.
Each museum that's part of the tour would exhibit the collection for three weeks. At the start of that time period, there would be work done to get the featured artists to appear on local radio talk shows to help promote the exhibit. Appearances can be made over the phone. There would also be articles in the local newspapers. Then on the weekend that ends the exhibit, the featured artists and their spouse / significant-other would be flown to the museum to chat with patrons over cocktails, hold panel discussions, participate in Q&A sessions, sign artwork, chat with the local press, and things along those lines. The exhibit would then be boxed up and have a week to get shipped to the next museum and put up for public display.
The museum's gift shop would sell the compilation books and tie-in merchandise of the featured webcomics for the month the exhibit is there.
The showcase tour could take years to work its way through just the US museums of contemporary art and many more years to do the world. The director said that the "minor" artists could be changed every year to give more of them a chance to be shown. And once the tour has run its course, she laughed and said it could repeat itself all over again since it will have been years since any museum last hosted it.
As for funding of this tour, the director and I tossed around ideas. She thinks the best scenario is a single wealthy patron that is willing to foot the bill. The bill being shipping costs, the expense of flying in the artists for the final weekend at each museum, and hiring me on as the tour manager. She asked if there is currently a wealthy individual that is a patron of webcomics and I told her I haven't heard of one. She said that's bad and good. Bad in that one would need to be found. Good that if there isn't one, this fact can be used to pitch to get one. Apparently, there are wealthy individuals that would like to be "the" patron of a new art form. Other funding sources would be her museum's board hiring me on to run this tour as a service to contemporary art museums world-wide. She gives a 50/50 chance that her board would go for that. Other funding sources would be the National Endowment of the Arts (though it might restrict this to just American webcomic artists and American contemporary art museums), art foundations, and art-friendly corporations.
I did propose still another possible source of funding and that being an annual donation drive spearheaded by webcomics. This tour promoted by the webcomics and donations solicited from their readers. The director saw problems with this. Would webcomic artists do this with no guarantee that they would be chosen to be featured on the tour? Is there enough webcomic fans that would donate enough money to do this? Her off-the-cuff guess is that the tour would cost a million dollars a year to do. Most of that cost being the flying in, putting up in a hotel, feeding, and other expenses of bringing the artists for the "meet the artists" events. She did say that if major webcomics agreed to do such a donation drive, that would be a very strong selling point to a museum to be the parent museum for such a tour. In other words, money talks.
As for who I am, I am a long-time marketer (scroll down to "Scott Jensen" at this link: http://www.fariel.com/About/), have been a fan of webcomics for many years, and am looking for a change in my career. Being the full-time tour manager for this idea would be a nice change.
The above idea in another form has been presented on some webcomic forums. That form was as a series of for-profit globe-trotting webcomics-only conventions. Here's a link to one such forum where that version was presented: http://www.talkaboutcomics.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=321972#321972 However, at the moment, I think the museum angle is a better one ... though I am still open to arguments for the convention version.
What I would appreciate is your thoughts, suggestions, comments, and constructive criticisms. The above isn't etched in stone. I seek input to improve it.
Thanks in advance!