Fanfaire 2019 came and went. It left its bright and vibrant mark in the midst of a dreary winter weekend. Organized by the High School of Art and Design in NYC, Fanfaire showcases the work of the school’s students. It also gives them a chance to work alongside professional for a weekend of nerdy fun.
It is one of my favorite events of the year. San Diego Comic Con is great, as are all the other large conventions dotting the country. However, there’s something to be said for small, home grown cons that get to the heart of comics and popular culture: the creators, old and new, getting to mingle with the people who love what they do.
Rolling up on a Saturday morning, my friend and I immediately delved into the two-part Artist Alley. One of the things I love most about Fanfaire is the fact it is held in the school itself instead of a hotel or convention center. It is charming to walk into a school cafeteria or gym and see it set up with rows on rows of booths full of art and other creative works.
What sets Fanfaire’s artist alley apart from a big convention like New York Comic Con is how unique and fresh the offerings are. The students have new ideas and lean into them whole heartedly. They offer the world their creations without the pressure of a studio or company telling them what is or isn’t acceptable to produce.
There’s an unhindered, vibrant, shining creativity that comes out in a festival like Fanfaire. I took multiple laps through both parts of the artist alley to soak it all in.
Dungeons & Dragons
After purchasing a few prints and charms, my friend and I descended into the school’s underbelly seeking out a Dungeons & Dragons experience that is so unique to Fanfaire. Where else do you get to play on Dwarven Forge terrain in a black box theatre, dynamic lighting and all?
We drifted comfortably between watching D&D and returning to the convention floor, stopping for food in the cafeteria. That’s another area in which Fanfaire is set apart: The Parent-Teacher Association that puts it on goes above and beyond to provide hearty, affordable, oftentimes homemade treats for sale.
Attendees aren’t subjected to overpriced drinks and stale pretzels. Instead, they had a choice of hot food, salads, baked goods, and my favorite: capri suns. Personally, I think capri suns should be a staple of all conventions from here on out.
When we’d had our fill we skimmed through the schedule and were impressed with the workshop offerings. Fanfaire is such an intimate convention that each of the workshops and panels offers attendees a chance to really get to know professionals and pick their brains.
Professionals aren’t rushed out behind a curtain the moment it is done, and even if they have to go you can reconnect with them at their booth. Fanfaire brings conventions back to what they often were: a chance to connect. To engage in relationships around shared interests and love of the content being produced.
At the end of the day, I’d attend Fanfaire without hesitation over most other conventions. It is chock full of interesting programming, the students in artist alley are wildly skilled, and the whole thing feels homey and intimate at the end of the day.
We can’t wait to see what it has to offer next year.