This past weekend I attended my first National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards Weekend, held in Pittsburgh, PA at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Since February I’ve been co-chair of the Washington, DC chapter of NCS and I’ve been a member for over a year. Going in I knew this event as “The Oscars of Cartooning” and it certainly lived up to the hype.
Arriving mid-day Friday, the first stop I made was to Pierogies Plus in McKees Rocks, PA (as it is my mission to visit as many pierogie places as possible). I ordered a kielbasa sandwich, breakfast pierogies, and haluski (noodles and cabbage). After eating, I drove to the hotel and got situated with my wonderful roommate and chair of the DC chapter, Teresa Roberts Logan. There were panels to attend and lots of new people to meet. That evening the Toonseum hosted us to view the gallery opening featuring every Reuben Award winner for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year! In addition, the mayor of Pittsburgh declared that day “Cartoonist Day.”
There was a reception across the street at the August Wilson Center and then karaoke afterwards and a nearby club. The reception had pierogies and amazing table centerpieces with newspaper comics folded into flowers. It was really well-done. We did not stay into the night for the karaoke and went back in the hotel to hang out in the Speakeasy, a chill lounge tucked beneath the hotel lobby. I admired the wallpaper for the velvet texture.
One of the reasons I enjoyed attending the event was that cartooning is a very solitary profession and it was excellent to hang out with people who understand the life of creating and are super talented. Also a large majority of the people in NCS have been working for decades. They have seen the industry change several times with the rise of TV and now, the internet.
Saturday was the big day of the Reuben Awards, but before that we all attended panels and got to know each other more. There were also inspiring presentations by Mo Willems, Drew Friedman, and Brad Anderson.
Finally the moment arrived to get ready for the awards show (above is a photo of Amy Lago, Barbara Dale, myself, and Teresa). At first I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on fashion, but a few days before I caved in and purchased a dress. Take my word for it, it was an affordable gold A-line style dress with mint accents. I also had a left-over can of spray glitter and Teresa was a good sport about trying some too. It came out pretty well as a nice shimmer. The evening was magical and fancy. We got to witness the second tie for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year – both Brian Crane and Rick Kirkman won. Congrats to all the winners and nominees!
Sunday was the first Pittsburgh Comic Arts Festival and I signed in the morning. A lot of local comics enthusiasts arrived excited for the event. I did free sketches and the Toonseum supplied a donation jar, which many people contributed to for their fund for at-risk youth. I enjoyed meeting all the people there (above is a photo of Bill Janocha and I).
I also ran into Marcel Lamont Walker on the street at the festival. We had met before at Pittsburgh comics conventions we both exhibited at.
A highlight of the weekend was attending the women panel featuring Cathy Guisewite, Lynn Johnston, Terri Libenson, Hilary Price, and Jen Sorensen. What an amazing group of women with great stories to tell. I also liked the format in which Hilary Price moderated the panel because during the introduction of each panelist, they steped up to a projector and did live drawing. As an audience member it was special to see that – the pen strokes and decisions they made on the spot really helped literally paint a picture of their creations.
Afterwards a group of us had a late lunch at Primanti Brothers, the sandwich place that is known for putting fries in the sandwich. I had the closest thing to a Reuben, which was their Pastrami and Cheese.
The weekend concluded with a Roaring 20’s farewell party. Excellent food was served and a live band played the hits. I left as the sun began to set and took the 4-hour drive home. It was a great weekend and everyone was friendly and supportive. I thank the NCS for allowing me to be a part of their cartooning family. I also wish to thank all the people who helped plan the event and the time and energy Tom and Anna Richmond devote to NCS. Also thank you to Chris Sparks who continues to push Team Cul de Sac to greater levels.
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