89.1 WEMU

creative:impact - Building Literacy And Confidence Through The Art Of Comic Books

Jun 11, 2019

Edith Donnel
Credit Chelsea District Library / chelseadistrictlibrary.org

Reading comics has been a popular youth activity for decades.  In some cases, it inspires youngsters to seek out a career in the comics industry.  The youth organization "Kids Read Comics" was founded to encourage kids to get their creative juices flowing.  The organization's founder, Chelsea librarian Edith Donnel, discusses the project and latest engagement opportunities with WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich in this week's "creative:impact."

Deb Polich, President and CEO of The Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

About Edith Donnel

Edith Donnell is a youth and teen librarian who has worked at the Chelsea District Library for over a decade.  She inspires kids and teens to reach for their dreams with thoughtful and innovative library services and offers personalized reading suggestions for all ages.

Kids Read Comics

Kids Read Comics 2009
Credit Edith Donnel

Kids Read Comics is a Michigan nonprofit whose goal is to engage young people in reading and making comics.  Our annual Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival and other free events take a very different approach from your typical comic book convention.  We’re about readers more than fans; about connecting more than collecting; about participating more than passively observing.

Kids Read Comics was founded by Chelsea youth and teen librarian Edith Donnell, cartoonist and educator Jerzy Drozd of Ann Arbor, comic shop owners Dan & Katie Merritt of Dearborn, and comic book writer Dan Mishkin of East Lansing.  Edith was inspired to bring a "comic book convention" to her small library in Chelsea, and asked Jerzy to partner with her on the project.  Around the same time, Dan Mishkin was inspired by attending the first Kids’ Comic Con in New York City and told Jerzy, who saw how the two ideas could come together.

The Merritts' commitment to comics and their expertise in running comics shows made them naturals to round out the group, with the different angles and experience the co-founders brought to the project helping us cover a lot of bases.  The Dans, Katie and Jerzy reached out to the comics creative community for guests and to publishers for donations of free comics, and Edith connected with volunteer groups, designed programming with Jerzy and took care of logistics like tables, food, locations, and promotions, leading to our first Kids Read Comics Convention at the Chelsea District Library in 2009.

Several years and several libraries later, the convention became a festival that found a great home at the Ann Arbor District Library.  As host of the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival, the library has gone all in on staff support, promotion, logistics and bringing in a few major guests each year.  The Kids Read Comics team continues to take the lead on guest selection and relations, as well as programming that includes comics-making workshops, interactive drawing events, and a Friday pre-conference for educators and librarians.  KRC also coordinates with partners like the Ann Arbor Art Center, Vault of Midnight, and 826michigan.

As has been the case since the first Kids Read Comics Convention ten years ago in Chelsea, admission for the public and table space for artists alley guests are completely free.

Kids, teens, and adults can participate in over 25 awesome cartooning workshops and creative games.  Kids can also vote in the seventh annual Kids’ Comics Awards, the only comics awards chosen by kids.

Chelsea Library Comics Arts Festival 2009
Credit Chelsea District Library / chelseadistrictlibrary.org

10th Anniversary Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival (A2CAF): June 14-16, 2019

Friday, June 14th

A2 Inkubate is a pre-conference for librarians, educators and cartoonists.  Later in the evening are events open to all ages including announcing the winner for the McDuffie Award for Kid’s Comics.  The award runs in tandem with the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity and focuses on comics aimed at young readers.

Saturday, June 15th

All events take place at the following locations:

  • Ann Arbor District Library: Main Branch - 343 S. Fifth Ave
  • Robot Supply & Repair - 115 East Liberty Street
  • Ann Arbor Art Center - 117 West Liberty Street
  • Vault of Midnight - 219 S. Main Street

Events include:

  • “Kickoff Event - Iron Cartoonist!
    • Watch the stars of A2CAF battle it out in a series of themed drawing rounds with random elements thrown in by you!  Will you help them draw toward victory, or make them squirm? Watch guest cartoonists fight for the title under the watchful eye of your host, Zack Giallongo! Your choices will help determine this year’s Iron Cartoonist!”
  • Quick Draw!
    • Imagine an episode of Whose Line Is it Anyway? starring a group of quick-thinking cartoonists, and you’ll begin to get the picture of Quick Draw.  It’s improvisational cartooning with plenty of audience participation, brought to you with courage and cheer by our guest artists.
  • The Shake Ups: Cartoon Adventure Hour Concert, Featuring 50 Years of Scooby Doo!
    • Ruh-roh, Raggy…You’re not going to believe this!  The Shake Ups are bringing the Mystery, Inc. gang to A2CAF to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Scooby Doo!  The Indianapolis-based, award-winning power-pop band will perform a variety of songs from and about cartoon favorites, highlighted by tracks from the new Meddling Kids project.  Jeepers!  You won’t want to miss the fun!
  • Panels, Signings and Author Spotlights
  • Most Panels and events are for all ages, though there are a few for just Adults (or adults and teens) and some listed just for kids
  • Artist Alley

Sunday, June 16th

  • Similar events/ panels to Saturday (minus concert)
  • Artist Alley
  • The Kid’s Comic Awards Ceremony @3:30 pm – 4:00 pm
    • Come to A2CAF Saturday, June 15, and cast your ballot on paper or via iPads carried around by A2CAF volunteers.  Then come back on Sunday to see who won during an awards ceremony featuring puppets, super villains, and lots of laughs!  ONLY KIDS CAN VOTE!  (That means 17 years old or younger)

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu