BellCAF: Meet the makers at unique comics festival

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by Halee Hastad

Intimate may not be the first word people think of when they’re considering comic art. But intimacy is exactly what one can expect to experience while attending this year’s Bellingham Comic Arts Festival (BellCAF) on Saturday, March 31, at the Alternative Library (AltLib) from noon to 7 p.m.

The festival has been organized in large by Cullen Beckhorn, aka Future Man, editor and publisher of Neoglyphic Media and founder of the Bellingham AltLib. With support from the Pickford Film Center and Make.Shift Gallery, BellCAF will feature 40 independent creators and small publishers from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Unlike many festivals of its kind, BellCAF is unique in that all tables will be run by the creators of these small-pressed, handmade books, and other comic arts. They are inviting both the artist and the attendee to connect on a personal level; one in which a person who has a question about the art will be able to ask another directly. Maybe someone wants to know more about the meaning or intention behind a process, or is curious about the tools being used. Ta-da! Your questions will be answered. This event is something of an all-access pass to the roots of these incredibly intricate, unique and meaningful works.

The last time a comics festival of this kind happened was in 2015 at the Majestic. Beckhorn was involved in that event as well, but the intention has changed this time around.

“By using a much smaller venue, I’m hoping for a much more intimate setting that will give everyone more time to get deep with each other and also feature a more concentrated dose of the most wildly creative folks that I can muster to bring into the room,” Beckhorn said.

There is much going on in the world of independent small press and publishing. While there is no shortage of creators, the ability to find decent exposure is certainly limited.

BellCAF aims to bridge the gap and represent hard working independent creators by focusing more on “deep inquiry and intimate interactions in service of discovery,” Beckhorn said.

With comic arts making headlines in Hollywood, social justice circles, and a wide array of other networks, they provide as voices of creators in all realms. As Beckhorn describes, comic shops often tread a line between showcasing works of pop culture and those of countercultures, “where preconceived notions of the market create the container of the market.” Representation of independent creators, he said, relies on the passion of a store clerk to champion things outside the pop culture.

Beckhorn is one of these people, and he represents with the dedication and soul of someone who absolutely cares.

“This event is an assertion of the real and physical as important,” he said.” “It’s about comics as a physical thing that you can touch, that are made by a person who is standing in front of you, that you can talk to and try to understand why they feel compelled to create a thing to share. It’s about the personal, it’s about relationships, it’s about meeting in the real world, and feeling something together.”

An after party will immediately follow the festival, also hosted at the AltLib, with live performances, puppeteering, readings and music performed by many of the festival’s exhibitors.

Satellite events will take place during March leading up to the festival. These include an exhibit at Make.Shift on the First Friday Art Walk on March 2, where original BellCAF works will be featured for the night and throughout the month.

For more information about BellCAF, see the Facebook event page at Bellingham Comic Arts Festival 2018 – Exhibition Show.

Published in the March 2018 issue of What’s Up! Magazine