Showers of Art and Lit
Let's not call the New South Festival of Literary Arts and Cartooning a perfect storm of indie media, please
If there's a lot of rain on Saturday, June 6, an affable young man named Danithan Mejia is pretty much screwed.
Because on that date, from 11 in the morning until 6 at night, is the debut of the New South Festival of Literary Arts and Cartooning, an event packed with vendors and guests and the general milling public. And the festival is being held outside: on the spacious grounds of the French Legation Museum, that Oldest Building in Austin that's just a few blocks east of I-35. Where it will rain, if it rains, on the inked and the un-inked alike.
And relentless cultural instigator Danithan Mejia is the man behind the festival, the man who's been working toward staging it for a couple of years now.
"Yeah, rain would be a disaster," admits Mejia. "I mean, most of the stuff we're gonna have at New South, most of it's made of paper."
So we're saying that it's not going to rain. We're invoking the Supreme Power of the Chronicle here – via an odd little dance and the sacrifice of a bowl of queso to the gods of weather and journalism – and we're keeping the sky clear as a bluebonnet's conscience on that day. Because there will be much of interest going on for people who love indie comics and literature and the interzone between the two. Because, suggests Mejia, the itch of that demographic isn't completely scratched by the annual Staple! Independent Media Expo.
"I feel like a lot of people have been looking for something a little bit more, ah, underground, a bit more like alt.comics," he says. "We really admire what Staple! does – they've had some amazing guests, it's been cool – but New South is a different kind of thing. There are a lot of cartoonists who are up-and-coming, who are doing a lot of great stuff in the alt.comics community – people like Derek Ballard, Hellen Jo, Inés Estrada – and I'm excited to be bringing in these people from all over the nation and even other countries. Jim Rugg – the creator of Afrodisiac and Street Angel – he was the art director for the first two issues of Foxing Quarterly, so he's always been a big part of what we've been doing, and he's our guest of honor."
Whether the flavor's ultimately that different or not, the New South Festival offers free admission and a welcome familiarity of indie-expo reasons to attend. The 50-plus exhibitors signed up to attend will include zinesters; writers and illustrators; small presses such as Monofonus, The Austin Review, Newfound, and Nat. Brut from Dallas; and publishing collectives such as Austin's Raw Paw, which will be live-printing Jim Rugg tote bags and other materials. And starting at noon, every hour will see a new panel. Organizer Shannon McCormick promises one on guest of honor Rugg, panels on the state of small-press publishing from the comics and lit worlds, on indie comics artists working day jobs in the animation industry and as freelance illustrators, and on "aggressively and intentionally lowbrow cartooning style from some comics makers from Austin and elsewhere." And just in case all that lit and art activates your appetite, the Fest will have a few food trucks on hand: Arlo's, serving vegan burgers; PitaLicious, serving meat and vegetarian wraps; and Cold Ones, serving artisanal, Mexican-style popsicles.
So, food and comics and zines and books and posters and ink and a lot of talented guests in from beyond Austin. Good thing – dance, dance – it's not going to rain on Saturday.