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Tabling Local: Funday Friday at Iron City Boulders

On Friday 8/26, Incubator Productions tabled at Funday Friday, a monthly meetup event at Iron City Boulders , one of Pittsburgh's premier rock climbing gyms. Since opening about a year ago, Iron City Boulders has evolved into a community hub for young adults living in the East End of Pittsburgh, offering climbing problems accessible enough for the never-climbed-before and exciting array of challenging climbs.

This month's Funday Friday was local artist night. Members of the gym who ran arts-related businesses tabled to share their arts products with an enthusiastic community. Climbing must be quite a creatively stimulating exercise; more than half of the 20+ artists who tabled were also gym members!

I did not have the foresight to take more pictures that night, so you'll have to go with the visual picture painted by these next 224 words:

It's 7pm. It's warm, but a cool breeze freshens the air. A golden sun sets over rolling hills that line the Allegheny River. Families and young adults shuffle in and out of the 27,000 foot warehouse of Iron City Boulders, carrying booklets and posters, hopping into lines for beer, food trucks, and setting down at an array of picnic tables. Inside, a solo guitarist jams a tune on a second story stage, overlooking a crowd of dozens. The crowd is bustling in three activities, that at first seem like they should not fit together, but do. It's a you-had-to-be-there kind of harmony. At the center of the gym sit the walls, with dozens of climbers and enthusiasts gathered round almost every problem of the gym. (We're talking 11,000 square feet of climbing here). At the periphery are 20 artist vending stations, the owners of which are engaging with new fans, friends, and fellow gym members, swapping art for cash (or beers, hiccup!), sharing stories, and co-ideating their next client relationships. In between these two groups circumambulate friend circles of young adults, couples, and families. There is laughing, chasing and playing. Old friends are reconnecting, and new friendships are budding. You feel like you are in an athletic event, carnival and arts festival all at once, because, well, you are!

I really like the model of hybrid events that mix both experience and physical activity with merchandise sales. These kinds of context-driven markets make for a great understanding of some of the important roles artists play in a community. Our comics, prints, paintings, photographs and other creative products become more than just a body of content to be consumed and cast aside, they are the mementos that deepen the relationship between experiencer and experience.

If you are a cartoonist and haven't tried attending a tabling event in your community yet, I highly recommend trying it. Comics tables have an uncanny power to attract all kinds of interesting people and give you an opportunity to have some really interesting conversations that sometimes lead to exciting new opportunities!


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