When Marcel Walker was five years old, he knew he wanted to create comics.
“When I was invited to work at the ToonSeum, I began teaching classes and workshops,” said Walker. “I tried to create classes about comic art that were classes I wanted as a kid. As both a comic creator and member of the Board of Directors, I am able to make my own art as well as introduce people to other artists who otherwise will have gone unknown.”
Walker is a part of the Board of the Directors for the ToonSeum, a “small, boutique gallery” dedicated to the art of comics and animation. Although it is a small building with only two galleries, Walker says, “It packs a lot into what it has.”
The ToonSeum used to be even smaller, with it formerly being a hallway in the Children’s Museum. The original collection contained much of the interests of Joe Wos, the founder of the ToonSeum. Though Wos has since left the ToonSeum, Walker says that the collection shown in the ToonSeum originally were Peanuts and Looney Tunes cartoons. Now, the ToonSeum features loaned exhibits.
“Most of the exhibits have been featured in other places before our museum,” says Walker, “but since we have two galleries, we try to have exhibits that compare yet contrast with each other.”
Currently, the ToonSeum has two exhibits that feature very different sides of America. The first gallery is called “This Campaign is YUUUGE!” which is all about the presidential election.
“The exhibits name comes from things that Donald Trump says,” says Walker.
The exhibit features political cartoons that include Hillary, Bernie, Ted, Jeb, Marco, and “The Donald” in a humorous light.
The other exhibit is all about America’s favorite hero, Captain America. It’s his 75th anniversary this year, and Cap is honored by multitudes of memorabilia items in this exhibit. All past and present military personnel are let into the Captain America exhibit for free, according to the ToonSeum’s Social Media and Special Events Coordinator, Alexa Astarte because Captain America was also a member of the military.
“Captain America represents the heroic America of the past,” says ToonSeum Board of Directors Member Walker, “and Donald Trump and the election represents our unsure future as Americans. It’s important to have these exhibits because they effect our culture today, and comics are an art form that can perfectly exemplify that.”
Comic Art is present in other parts of culture as well. On Saturday, June 25, Marcel Walker will be performing alongside the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, but not as a musician- he will be performing as a comic artist. The performance, called “Heroes and Inspirations”, will be a performance for charity. While the PSO plays, Walker will draw comics that correlate with the music.
“The idea is very strange when you hear it,” says Walker, “but it makes sense because music and art just naturally go together. This performance just shows how prominent comic books and cartooning are in culture.”
Another person who realizes the importance of comics to culture is John Kelly, the Vice President of the ToonSeum.
“I see comics as art because they can tell stories in ways no other medium can,” said Kelly, “The ToonSeum preserves the art of comics because so many people don’t realize how much of a following comics have, especially in Pittsburgh. Before moving here about six years ago, I lived in New York my whole life. Coming here, I was overwhelmed by how many people loved comics.”
Despite the importance and impact of comics, the ToonSeum is one of the few places that preserve the art form. “The ToonSeum is one of the few places in the whole world that preserves one of the most important parts of our culture” said John Kelly.
View Cartoon and Animation Museums Across the Globe in a full screen map
The ToonSeum’s impact on Pittsburgh is not one to be forgotten either.
“Five years ago, we were so small and so few artists knew about us that most of the galleries included our personal collections,” said Marcel Walker. “Now it has gotten so much bigger and really helps people be more aware of comics. In the future, I don’t want it to be the same as it is now. I want it to be so much bigger and make more people notice an art that is so important to America’s history.”
The ToonSeum is currently open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located on 945 Liberty Avenue. Admission costs $8 for Children and adults 13 and over, $4 for children over 6, and it is free admission for children 5 and under. To see more pictures of the gallery, click here: http://www.kizoa.com/Video-Editor-Movie-Maker/d51448150k5830400o1l1/toonseum-collage.
To learn more about the ToonSeum, click here to go to the official website: http://www.toonseum.org