When Eva Sowinski closed her brick-and-mortar shop in 2016, she felt a huge sense of relief. Having been open a little less than a year, Fan Alley was successful and popular among the geeky comic-art crowd, but the stress of having to manage a store, handle payroll and contact artists for inventory on her own gave her an early case of burnout. “Being artistic, I lost a bit of me in the shop,” Sowinski explains. “And being inside four walls all day made me feel like I was boxed in and I couldn’t do anything.”
Not wanting to give up the Fan Alley name or the goal to showcase local talents, Sowinski started planning one- or two-day happenings that turned art shows into interactive gatherings between artists and visitors of all ages. The first pop-up event brought together 35 different artists and was a hit. “[But] then I tried to do it every month, and that burned me out again,” Sowinski says. She also planned a Stranger Things-themed art show a week after it premiered on Netflix, “and 500 or 600 people came,” she recalls. “It was insane.”
Pop-culture-based fan art is one of the higher profile genres, but Sowinski and her new organizing partner, Marissa Suto, typically invite local artists who produce work that has its own audience or fits the show’s theme, as long as it’s family-friendly. While Suto plans upcoming gallery shows and vendor fairs, Sowinski organizes Fan Alley’s annual Ground Zero Animation Expo, an extravaganza taking place in June that celebrates talented illustrators, character designers and animation hopefuls and brings in industry professionals to provide guidance and insight on the biz.
The next curated artist-and-vendor showcase will be holiday-themed on Dec. 9 at the Art Institute in Costa Mesa. As is the norm of Fan Alley events, expect it to be off-the-wall and fun, with an ugly sweater contest, live cosplay drawing of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy cosplayers, Toys for Tots, and geeky artists and vendors.
For more info on upcoming events, go to www.fanalley.wordpress.com.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.