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Comics Conference Makes Headlines

Despite competing with the NATO summit for attention, the recent Comics: Philosophy and Practice conference received wide acclaim in local and national media. Held May 18-20 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, the free conference was organized by Hillary Chute, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in English, and sponsored by the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center For Arts and Inquiry. The three-day conference was the first in an annual series of conferences sponsored by the Gray Center as part of a major new arts initiative aimed at fostering creative innovation at the intersection of academic inquiry and artistic practice.

The seventeen comic luminaries in attendance included Alison Bechdel, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Lynda Barry, and Daniel Clowes. Among the panelists at the conference was W.J.T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor in the departments of English, Art History, and Visual Arts. Mitchell and Spiegelman shared the stage during a discussion called “What the %$#! Happened to Comics?”

From the Chicago Reader:

Mitchell and Spiegelman covered an enormous amount of ground during their conversation, holding forth on everything from William Blake’s poetry and comics in the digital age to New Yorker covers. Both men illuminated a fascinating history of images.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The rock scene had Woodstock. The jazz world famously gathered on the steps of a Harlem brownstone in 1958 for Esquire photographer Art Kane. In the 1920s, New York literati met at the Algonquin Round Table.

“It feels historic,” Bechdel said. “I realize how grandiose that might sound to someone who doesn’t know much about comics, but that’s the word that keeps coming to me. The whole thing just blows my mind.”

The Huffington Post covered the conference, and praised Professor Chute, who:

“did an amazing job of bringing together 17 of some the biggest names and influences in cartooning.”

Time Out Chicago covered the conference as well, giving a peek behind the scenes of pulling conference together.

How did Chute assemble this particular league of heavy hitters? Herself an author of a book and numberous articles about comics, she already had a number of close contacts in the field; most notably, she’d worked with Spiegelman as associate editor for MetaMaus. And she was friends with hometown hero Ware before moving to Chicago in 2010; through him, she began hanging out at Quimby’s and met Ivan Brunetti. “These people had all talked to me before, and they trusted me to put on an event that they’d want to be a part of,” she says. Because of their friendships, Ware and Brunetti committed early, and then it just began to flow: “Once some people started saying yes, other people started saying yes too, because they were excited to see those people.”

Read stories from the Chicago Tribune herehere, and here.

Read the Chicago Reader story here.

Read the Huffington Post story here.

Read the Time Out Chicago story here.

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