most other people who offered friendly advice or constructive criticism to the institution over the years, I have since been branded a Toonseum "detractor."
But this wasn't always the case. In 2009, I donated some 10,000 comic books and prints (the entire backstock of my self-publishing imprint, Fiasco Comics Inc.), textbooks on cartooning and comic book history, and original art to the Toonseum, as well as the drawing board tabletop my working mother had bought me in 1979 that I used to draw nearly all of my published comics.
In the years that followed, I could be relied upon to contribute auction sketches to the Toonseum and pitch in with other forms of volunteer participation (including the suggestion of an "Artists' Alley" at the 2014 "Smackdown" fundraiser). Don't bother thanking all the little people, guys.
However, on at least four distinct occasions, the Toonseum a) approached me with an idea or project that they had devised; b) enlisted my enthusiastic commitment; c) utterly failed to follow up or follow through on their promise in any way, shape, or form; and d) never found so much as the professional courtesy of informing me that they had changed their minds.
I have described one of these projects in detail here, which would still be making them money.
I don't think my experience was in any way unique, except perhaps that I was dopey enough among local professional cartoonists to let it happen to me repeatedly before I finally had had enough.
This weekend, the Toxeum -- excuse me, Toonseum -- will be closing its Liberty Avenue gallery doors for good, promising (threatening?) "pop-up" exhibits and other forms of programming around town during a "curtains drawn" period, whatever that means. (It sounds like a haunting -- ghosts pop up at the most inopportune times, don't they? And the Toxeum has surely given up the ghost.)
Needless to say, this has come as no surprise, at least to someone who knows firsthand how the Toonseum has treated its friends and supporters.
But rather than go on grinding my ax (I would also like to sharpen a few knives, but they're still sticking in my back), I'd rather commemorate the decade of disappointment that is the History of the Toonseum with a little anecdote I've never shared:
|Dr. Don has taught drawing, cartooning, art and architectural history and other subjects almost continuously since 1993. This was a flyer for an offering that did not attract enough students, but it sure was an attractive design!|
In the summer of 2014, I was approached by two board members about joining the Toonseum board (another of the four incidents alluded to above). I didn't even fully realize the Toonseum had a board; in any case, I cautioned them that I had a mind of my own, but they insisted that a PhD would look spiffy on their letterhead. I agreed, and a day or two later, followed up with a statement of my priorities, as I saw them, for an arts-educational institution like the Toonseum:
My personal "broken record" talking points on behalf of the comics artform in general include: 1) all-ages education (drawing generally and cartooning in particular, along with informative/scholarly lectures); 2) comics as a female-friendly hobby for creators/readers (and not just a boys' club); and 3) building bridges to the fine art/gallery/museum world and academia. I see all these goals as meshing with the Toonseum's mission and all the great things Joe has already accomplished to date, and am quite excited as you envision future growth for this local and national treasure (private email, July 25, 2014).Obviously, I never was invited to join the board (and the story of how I eventually learned of this decision is a knee-slapper for another time!). But I still happen to think there is an opportunity in the Pittsburgh region for an arts organization committed to drawing and cartooning.
I just don't believe that organization should be called the Toonseum, or be in any way descended from it.