MoCCA Fest returns in-person, celebrating illustrators and artists alike

Vibodha Gallage Dona

The annual MoCCA Arts Festival kicked off on the weekend of April 2-3, attracting nearly 6,000 fans to their new venue this year.

The festival’s return generated a lot of buzz as the first in-person event in 2 years, after a shut down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a virtual event last year.

The fair was held at the Metropolitan Pavilion and in addition to this, “The Senior Show,” which exhibited portfolio selections of student works from the School of Visual Arts, was held at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.

The MoCCA Art Festival first started in 2002 under the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art till 2012 and is currently organized by the Society of Illustrators.

Drawing in a selection of top comic, cartoon and illustration artists from around the world, the weekend consisted of live panels and demonstrations, panels and artist signings. The festival consisted of a wide array of presentations such as Wacom-sponsored panels to test drive their wide range to drawing tablets.

Anelle Miller, the executive director of the Society of Illustrators, noted how the “fans thronged the Metropolitan Pavilion and the line to get into the event extended up Sixth Avenue to nearly to 19th Street.”

Once through the long line of people buying tickets at the door, the entrance pillars of the exhibition are decorated with the theme posters of previous festivals. The 2022 poster was blasted on the big wall so that attendees could take a picture to capture the moment.

Past the entrance is a plethora of the arts –142 exhibitors to be exact – book deals with tote bags, posters big enough to cover a bedroom wall, art prints that both explode with color and meaning and fans could also find merchandise from their favorite shows at certain booths.

The live panels took place around 3 blocks away from the Pavilion, right across from the SVA Gallery. The times were divided up to be around an hour-long session with mini-interviews with the artists and Q&As at the end.

Some programs included “Professional Program: Mike Mignola On His Career,” “Comics Are For Kids Again,” “Quarantine Comics: Alex Graham and Simon Hanselmann,” “Picturing Queer Youth” and “Professional Programming.”

The Klein Award, now known as the MoCCA Arts Festival Awards of Excellence, is also given during the weekend to recognize the “most outstanding work on view at the festival.”

Judges for this award include Bill Campbell, Kiara Valdez, Anuj Shrestha and Ron Wimberly and the Chair being Ben Passmore, a visual artist. Previous winners of the Best of Show Award were also present at the festival, along with this year’s winner, “Days of Sand.”

Charles Kochman, the editorial director of Abrams ComicArts said that “the new venue feels like home, it’s the right size for MoCCA.” Miller couldn’t agree more.

“We will definitely be back in this space next year—we’re looking at the first weekend in April 2023,” she said to Publishers Weekly.