The fight for Cosplayers to find their place among appreciated artists everywhere.
The glorious internet god, Wikipedia, has a fantastic answer. “Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author’s imaginative or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.” A simple enough definition, able to encompass a multitude of mediums, genres, and inspirations. Cosplay is one of the most recently recognized forms of art, and is experiencing exponential growth and relevance in todays society. Despite this rapid growth, Cosplayers are often still considered the step-children of the Artist world, and their pocketbooks suffer for it.
With each generation, we find new mediums of expression, new ways to bring our creative dreams to reality. With the invention of videogames, and with the popularity of cartoons, anima, and other forms of multimedia projects, art is so much more accessible and consumable than it has been in previous centuries. Art is delivered to our homes, our phones and computers daily. So much so, that we sometimes fail to stop and appreciate the quality and skill behind what we are consuming. We see cosplayers everywhere, we ask to take pictures with them, we oogle their efforts… But we rarely, if ever, stop to think about the high cost of their art.
Cosplay has swept the convention circuits, becoming not only relevant for nerds and fangirls/boys alike, but also appealing to anybody who has played a video game, watched an anime, or fallen in love with a character. Cosplayers are taking costuming, construction, and invention to new levels, and some are fortunate enough to make their living in this field. Cosplay is similar to the worlds of acting and modeling, combining both creative elements and performative ones. Not only are they looking the part, they are also embodying the spirit of the characters they portray. This is an intense, interactive, and emotionally draining field to break into. Those cosplayers who are able to make a living from this field do so at their own expense, spending a wealth of hours, blood, sweat, and tears poring their hearts into their crafts.
Over the years of making a living as an Independent model in a very artist driven town, Austin, I have come to appreciate the level of skill and tact it takes to make it in the world of cosplay. I constantly see artists who have skills I don’t think I will ever possess, whose creations look so much like their namesakes that it catches the breath. The most surprising and disheartening moments come from intimate conversations, realizing these wonderful folk are constantly belittled, discredited, and pushed aside when it comes to being paid for their efforts. A decent cosplay can take hundreds of dollars, and hundreds of hours to create. Then to be told that they are not to be paid for all of their hard work, and only to be “given exposure…” That hurts. Every. Time.
I have recently had the honor of being tapped to coordinate the Cosplay Competition elements for an upcoming Anime Convention here in Texas. While I have coordinated Gaming conventions before, this is my first foray in to Anime. I am learning, quickly, that there is MUCH more respect in the anime world for Cosplayers, Voice Actors, and artists in general. While I am used to pulling teeth to get expenses covered for guest cosplayers, at this convention I am offered not only all their expenses to be covered, but also the ability to pay them real money for their time at our convention. THIS IS GROUND BREAKING. Finally, I am seeing real appreciation for all the hard work and effort these artists put in, and know that their audiences will be able to fully enjoy having them at their convention. I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to see this community grow.
The next time you go to a convention, take time to stop by a Cosplayers booth. Look through all of their gorgeous prints, stare in wonder at their props and costume construction, clap loudly during cosplay competitions. Let them feel your love and appreciation. Let them know you care. ASK your local conventions to bring in the cosplayers you want to see. They listen to requests. Find some way to give back to this amazing community of artists. Support them, because they care just as much about your fandoms as you do. Help us keep this starving artist community alive!
~Join us next week for more Cosplay! Coverage~
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