Artist Albert Morales speaks to student at Sõl-Con, displaying work to explore race and ethnicity. Credit: Courtesy of Katlin Sweeney

Artists of color from across the United States will be zooming to Ohio State this week for Sõl-Con: The Brown and Black Comix Expo.

The event will bring artists of color out of the margins and into the forefront, showcasing comics and discussions that explore the topics of race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity, Frederick Aldama, Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English and founder of the event, said.

“We are here. We are all here, and we exist in this country. We exist in this world. We are Americans … So why would we not have the same amount of reach and the same amount of influence and the same amount of privilege to tell our stories, to show our work, to show our cultures?” JM Hunter, a featured artist of Sõl-Con and an event organizer, said.

Sõl-Con is a three-day, on-campus event that will include lectures, workshops and a comic expo to welcome individuals to the comic world in a way that is “as laid-back as possible,” Katlin Sweeney, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of English and organizer of the event, said. Sõl-Con artists will then exhibit at Cartoon Crossroads Columbus Saturday and Sunday, after the on-campus event.

The event will kick off Wednesday with the first-ever student symposium, a series of 15-minute presentations given by both undergraduate and graduate students, with the intention of easing those who aren’t comic scholars into the conversation with the comfort of their peers, Sweeney said.

Sweeney also created a series of “thought nuggets” in her “Extra Credit Guide to Sõl-Con”  to help newcomers develop questions and thought topics throughout the event in order for them to be comfortable being involved.

The student-led discussions will be followed by panels of professional scholars, including Qiana Whitted of University of South Carolina, Christopher González of Texas A&M University and other professionals in the field from all over the country to gain insight of the scholarship behind comics, Aldama said.

Thursday will begin with a series of lectures, followed by a reception event at 4 p.m. allowing attendees to embrace the comic community in Columbus as well as those who are traveling for the event, Sweeney said.

Although workshops are typically held for children K-12, Sweeney said in its fifth year, Sõl-Con will implement a series of workshops so college students and attendees can have a more hands-on experience.

Sõl-Con will wrap up on campus Friday with an all-day comic expo that will display 28 ethnically diverse artists, according to the website of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which is involved in carrying out the event.

Attendees will also receive a free 52-page comic anthology at the expo that displays a range of works from finished professional pieces to works-in-progress created by students, Aldama said.

For Aldama, comics are more than just a form of entertainment.

“I moved from Mexico when I was 5, and I’ll be honest; comics taught me English better and faster than my classrooms,” Aldama said.

He said comics made the process of learning a foreign language an exciting puzzle, furthering the idea that comics can be an enjoyable way to learn through reading.

As a third-generation comic book fan, Hunter said comics are a form of therapy for him, and he considers them “an access to the inner-monologue.” He said he hopes to teach attendees of the possibility to express their own narrative through the art of comics.

Hunter said his work is intended to explore aspects of literature that pop visually while showcasing major themes of race and ethnicity, but will also have fan-art available for those who want less serious interaction with his work.

“It’s important to have shows like this to not only push inclusivity, but, you know, come get to know us — come see what we have to offer,” Hunter said.

Workshop RSVPs are recommended to be completed by Wednesday on Ohio State’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion website. A full event schedule is also available on the website.