Interview: Tom Hart Part 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews

tom hart baby

We finish up our conversation about Hart’s forthcoming school The Sequential Artists Workshop by discussion the importance–or lack thereof–of accreditation.

[Part One][Part Two][Part Three]

Vanessa Davis did the art for the Website. She’s a native Floridian.

She is a native Floridian, and I will be totally transparent and tell you that I’m trying my hardest to win here and Trevor Alixopolous back to Florida. I feel like I have to try to prove myself to them and maybe if it works out I will win them over. But who knows. On the other hand I can see Vanessa living in LA, being hosted by all sorts of high-up and big wigs and living a genuine classy life.

But I do adore her as a person and an artist. She’s come into my class a couple of times, and I saw that she really had a grace and demeanor that I could use [laughs].

She’s probably the most delightful person that I’ve met in the world of comics.

Yeah. And I love the idea of— this is all sort of silly — but I liked the idea of the school being run by two married couples: her and Trevor, who aren’t married, but might as well be, and me a Leela. And Trevor is such a tremendous artist. I think he is incredibly underrated; his visual sense is so powerful. So yes, I have been trying to woo them. It would be really great having them there.

But anyway I asked her for some art and she’s been very helpful. She did some lettering. She’s also going to draw a brochure comic, but honestly, I contacted her about all of this before I knew she had a new book [Make Me a Woman] coming out. This was in March of last year, not realizing that her book was three months away, and I was harassing her a lot. I picked the exact wrong time for Vanessa to do some free work.

Is Jeff Mason still down there?

He is down there. He’s on my board of directors. He’s great, and a great resource. I asked him for a list of some of the people who he first published, and it’s an incredible list. I’d forgotten what a service he’d done. All of these people he’d published graphic novels from for the first time: Gabrielle Bell, James Kochalka, Graham Annable, Nick Bertozzi, Sarah Varon, Dash Shaw, Alison Cole, Thor Jensen. He distributed Josh Neufeld, Lauren Weinstein, Derek Kim. That’s a great list.

He’s been a real backer of great comics for a long time. And the fact that he’s a lawyer has really helped me decipher some of this legal crap I have to do.

Are you accredited?

It won’t be right away. I’m not sure how soon it will be. I don’t understand the process myself. I’m trying to figure it out. I think it’s a state-by-state thing. In fact, in some places it’s regional. Accreditation, near as I can tell, is something you appeal for, having to present your case. I talked to somebody here in New York, he told me that start an MFA program, the overview process and all of that stuff takes years, whereas I’ve heard other people say that that’s not true at all.

I don’t really know. In fact, I still don’t really know what the difference between offering an MFA and accreditation is. I didn’t think there was a difference, I thought they were the same thing. But if you go to CCS’s Website, you’ll notice that they offer an MFA in comic art, but it’s not an accredited program. What does that mean? I don’t know what that means, but I’ll get to the bottom of it, sooner or later.

Well, James [Sturm] probably knows what that means, right?

I’m sure, and I haven’t talked to him since pondering all this. In fact, when I was really trying to get a hold of James, he was on his Internet fast, so I only talked to him on the phone, and only once or twice. I don’t want to talk to James, too much. I sort of feel like he’d love it if I figured it out on my own [laughs].

That issue is so strange that I’m willing to let it be off the table. I’m researching it, but I don’t think there’s going to be answers quickly.

But you think that people will be interested without accreditation.

I don’t know. If it comes to happen that they’re not, then I’ll work to get accredited. But there are a couple of colleges down in Gainesville, and when I get down there, I can talk to them a little bit more about how we might work together to offer college credits, etc.

For instance, there’s the program in Portland, run by Dylan Williams and Jesse Reklaw. It’s mostly about zine publishing. They run a small program about comics publishing. It’s the IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center). I have talked to them a little bit, and they have an uncredited year-and-a-half program that is gaining steam. I actually just found out about a little while ago, and Dylan and I have been talking a lot about it.

He said they do offer undergraduate credits through one of the schools there, and I think it kicks up the prices a certain amount. That seems like a fine arrangement for me, and it seems like it was pretty easy for them to make happen. So, I’m putting that on the list of things I need to make happen. But I have to admit that there’s this cantankerous part of me that wants to thumb its nose at the idea of having a degree for anything at all. Even surgery!

There’s certainly something to be said for it as far as even justifying the thing to your parents.

Right, right.

It’s probably hard for a lot of people to get their parents to send them to cartoon school.

I would think so, especially if the price of it being an accredited program pushes it up that much. But I honestly think that there are only some certain reasons—in an artistic field—to have a piece of paper or a few initials by your name, and I think that they’re about impressing certain kinds of people, certain kinds of institutions, and opening up certain doors. If you want those doors open or to meet with those kinds of organizations, you probably need it and want it.

But, near as I can tell, most people—I’ll hedge my bets and say half—half of the people who go just go to learn cartooning. They don’t go with the idea that they will parlay it into a teaching gig, which is what an MFA usually means in the arts. Honestly, I don’t know what other kinds of doors these degree things will open, but I’m sure that there are some.

But, especially in our very, very fragmented employment scenario that we’ve been in frankly for a long time, we’re in an increasingly freelance, short-term job market sort of situation. People’s work history gets them more work. Their portfolios, performances, etc. get them more work. I think that, if you can teach people to be creative, critical, and produce some great work, they can take that and parlay that into other opportunities. Make them smarter at everything they do.

Making an MFA program or any other program with a bunch of initials, it’s on my list of things to do, but it’s not as high as getting the thing running and teaching comics. But if enough people demand it, I’ll take my lumps. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. There are a lot of headaches.

–Brian Heater

Leave a Comment