Walking around Syracuse University’s Shaffer Art Building on a Sunday afternoon, eyes are pulled in multiple directions.
There are big TVs set up with Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart displayed on the other Visitors also see large displays of artwork for sale and “take a picture with a stormtrooper booth.” This is what the fourth annual Geek/Art CONfluence events looked like.
Focused on creativity, inclusion and diversity in geek culture, the CONfluence featured many different activities including a Batman drawing competition, guest speaker panels, a cosplay show and numerous vendors displaying artists’ various works.
Geek/Art CONfluence originally branched out of an older Syracuse comic con called Cripping the Comic Con, founder and associate professor at SU’s school of Visual Performing Arts, Chris Wildrick said.
The founders of Cripping the Comic Con ran out of funding and then teamed up with Wildrick to form the Geek/Art CONfluence holding the same values of promoting disability awareness in geek culture.
“It was important for them (founders of Cripping the Comic Con) to put out there and give a space to people who are not normally seen within the comics world to have something that focuses on them,” Wildrick said.
The event ranged from having Syracuse University representation, with the SU’s gaming club, to more local representation including: Jesse Humiston of Funkytown Comics located in Camillus.
One booth featured art prints from Yvonne Ogbechie, an SU sophomore studying art. She explained how excited she was to have a booth this year in comparison to just being an attendee at last year’s Geek/Art CONfluence.
“I enjoyed going to the con this year, but I loved being able to display my art at this con a lot more,” Ogbechie said.
Allison Myers and Sophie Buchanan, members of the SU Gaming Club, had a collection of older board games set up this year instead of holding their traditional Dungeons and Dragons booth. They gathered people by playing classic childhood games like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Jenga.
“We’ve had a lot of people stop by our table which surprised me,” Myers said. “We don’t fit the typical comic-con vibe, but I think that just shows how different this con is.”
Events held at this year’s Geek/Art CONfluence:
Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Tournaments
Draw Batman contest
Board games on the second floor
Luna Cat Cafe on the fourth floor
Cosplay Contest both online and in-person
Portfolio reviews by Tyler Boss (graphic novelist)
Vendors selling various merchandise and art
The goal of this event was to have one activity for everyone, Wildrick said.
One new event added this year was the Luna Cat Cafe on the fourth floor to bring cats for visitors to sit with. Wildrick said he had previously seen the cafe’s own version of comic con called Lunacon where they showed more than cats, but general aspects of Japanese culture such as anime.
He also mentioned how stressed students and how helpful the therapy dogs are at the Barnes Center of the Arch, but there wasn’t an option for cat-lovers.
“We had some students make comments about how some people are dog people and some people are cat people and that it’d be nice if they had the opportunity to see some cats,” he said.
Another new addition was an art contest. Attendees were presented with someone dressed up in Batman cosplay and prizes were given to both adults and children who submitted their interpretation of the character.
Wildrick said how many different interpretations could branch off of Batman based on the various movies and comics.
“You have your movie Batman, your 60s Adam West Batman and your cartoon Batman,” Wildrick said. “And so people would have a lot of opportunity for what they wanted to do with the character.”
“We don’t fit the typical comic-con vibe, but I think that just shows how different this con is.”-Allison Myers
He said some people would even utilize the tables filled with art supplies in between the different panels to just sit and draw Batman as a destresser.
Wildrick said another goal he wanted out of the con was to establish a sense of community, whether national or international. He said during some of the online events people were tuning in from the Philippines and central South America.
“If you’re a geeky kid from a small town who thinks it’s cool to dress up like a superhero, you might feel kind of alone,” Wildrick said. “But when you see there are people doing this all over the world, it makes you feel like you’re part of a bigger network.”