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What it's all about: Final thoughts on the Out of Step exhibit

When I was offered an opportunity to do the Out of Step exhibit at the William King Museum of Art after I started helping them curate Shelton Drum’s original comic art collection exhibit, I wasn't really sure it was something I wanted to do. I mean, I live in a rural part of Central Appalachia, and while there may be comic book fans here, there are very few people who are into the more “indie” artists I work with through Out of Step Arts. Who would come see it? Would it even be worth the time and effort?

In the end, I decided to do it. I figured that I’d forego attending a May convention like Spectrum Live or TCAF, and instead use the money I would have spent on registration and travel and put it towards the exhibit. (Getting frames for 50 pieces ain’t cheap you know.) Besides, where OOSA would just be a small, obscure part of a show like Spectrum LIVE or TCAF, we would be the headliner of our own museum exhibit! And while there may not be a lot of local interest, I thought there would be good opportunity for exposure for the collective in the online comics community. I’m a little biased, but I think havingMing Doyle, Andrew MacLean, Nathan Fox, Alexis Ziritt, Greg Ruth, Logan Faerber, Toby Cypress, Liz Suburbia, Paul Maybury and Chris Visions all in one show is pretty noteworthy. Heck, two of them are nominated for Eisners this year and we had original art from those books on the wall! Plus, with the Executive Director of the CBLDF coming to the museum for an event while the exhibit would be up? Pshh!! Who wouldn't think that was pretty cool?!

So, after I put in the time, the money, and hung all 50 pieces (by myself), the exhibit was up. I contacted all of the comics news sites about it, and promoted the crap out of it on twitter, tumblr, instagram, etc. The Comic Age and Multiversity Comics were kind enough to run a blurb about the exhibit on their sites (thanks, guys) and I think maybe 20 people were there for the opening event. Ten if you don’t count family and people associated with the museum. It stung a little. I wasn't expecting much, but I was hoping for more. In the weeks leading up to the Superhero Saturday event featuring the CBLDF, I contacted some of the comics news sites again, continued to post on social media sites, and we did a lot of local promotion for the event and the exhibits at the museum. Out of Step was mentioned on the news and in the local paper a couple of times, which was pretty cool. I did a radio interview about OOSA and the exhibit, too. It was great local exposure, but the larger comics community was my target market. The “big splash” I was hoping to make in the comics scene turned out to be more of a ripple in our local pond.

Superhero Saturday rolled around and it was a great event. Over 200 people (which is a pretty good turnout by all accounts) came out to the museum to participate and listen to the lecture on the history of censorship in comics. Kids came dressed as superheroes, everyone enjoyed seeing the exhibits, Charles Brownstein of the CBLDF was impressed… It was a good day.

And that was pretty much the culmination of the Out of Step exhibit for me. It’s only up for the month of May, so the only thing I have left to do is take it down on Sunday. Even if it didn't get noticed as I had hoped it would, it’s still a wonderful exhibit, and I’m really proud of the OOSA artists and the work they had on display. If you asked me if I was glad I did it, I would probably say, “Uh, yeah, I suppose.”

Until I got a text yesterday from the curator of the museum’s programming, that is.

Callie Hietala coordinates the programming at the museum, but she also does the tours of the exhibits for groups that come in. She texted me to let me know that she was showing a group of middle school students around, and that when they got the Out of Step exhibit, a little girl told her, “I feel at home here. This is exactly how I want to draw!” That comment instantly made everything worthwhile. The fact that seeing the art from the OOSA artists on the walls of the museum in her home town may have sparked, inspired, reassured and/or validated something for that kid is far more important to me than getting mentioned on the internet. Now I feel the Out of Step exhibit might just be the most important thing I've done through Out of Step Arts so far.

Who knows, maybe that little ripple in our local pond will lead to this girl making her own big splash in the comics scene one day.