Cartoon Crossroads Columbus will bring in artists from across the US, such as Sally Cruikshank who will be featured at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Courtesy of Sally Cruikshank.

The fourth annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus expo returns this weekend to celebrate cartoonists, animation, comics and their creators, beginning today.

The four-day festival will span the city and feature hundreds of cartoonists from across the world.

“It’s truly citywide in that it is hosted and sponsored by a variety of art institutions across Columbus,” said Caitlin McGurk, associate curator for outreach at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

The institutions hosting the festival include the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Hale Hall. The festival will also extend downtown with artist vendors at the Columbus Metropolitan Library and featured works at the Columbus Museum of Art and the Columbus College of Art & Design.

McGurk said the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library used to hold a triennial festival of cartoon art that was a smaller-scale, paid, invite-only event that began in the 1980s, but was eventually retired to create an annual, free, citywide event.

“Comics have just really exploded the last couple of years and there’s been so much interest from other institutions in doing programming with comics and cartoonists and bringing them in for events and stuff like that,” McGurk said.

The four days of festivities are split in half in terms of location, McGurk said. The first two days will take place on campus, while the last two days will take place downtown.

There will be many special guests featured throughout the festival, such as Brian Michael Bendis, who currently writes “Superman” for DC Comics. Some of the artists who will be featured on campus include independent animators such as Kelly Gallagher and Sally Cruikshank, both of whom will be at the Wexner Center today, said Dave Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center.

“One thing that was really exciting to me is [that] Kelly comes from a little more of an experimental tradition and Sally comes from more a historical animation perspective,” Filipi said. “It’s really exciting that two independent animators, different generations, are going to be here on the same day, showing their work, talking about their work.”

Filipi said he believes an art form like animation is important because it’s everywhere.

“When we go see the new ‘Star Wars’ film or the ‘Avengers’ films, or just even films where the digital effects are even more invisible and less on the surface. Filmmakers are using digital techniques that are essentially animation,” Filipi said.

For McGurk, cartooning and visual arts like comics are significant because “there’s something for everyone in it.”

“When the U.S. was a real melting pot of people who weren’t necessarily even literate, let alone read or spoke English specifically, they could still enjoy the comics because it’s both words and pictures telling a story,” McGurk said. “I think that makes it one of the most accessible mediums in the world.”

Filipi said he hopes the festival can not only show how interesting Columbus is as a city to all the guests and artists coming in from around the country and world, but also that it can show art like animation, cartoons and comics as a serious art form.

“[CXC is] people who create comics from a very personal perspective, a lot of the comics are self-supported, self-published, and it really — this is the spirit of the festival,” Filipi said. “It puts comics as an art form front and center.”

Admission is free, and a full list of guests and schedule of the festival’s events can be found here.