How This Comic Maker Plans to Make Everyone an Artist The first annual “By the People Festival” kicks off in the Washington, D.C. area with interactive art, gospel, Jazz, opera and other performances

How This Comic Maker Plans to Make Everyone an Artist The first annual “By the People Festival” kicks off in the Washington, D.C. area with interactive art, gospel, Jazz, opera and other performances

June 18, 2018 | Kate Keller, Smithsonian.com

For Evan Keeling, comics are more than a humorous pastime or even an artistic medium. The comic maker views his craft as a conduit for expression that is accessible enough to help those just finding their voice to tell their stories.

This perspective is what Keeling hopes to share with visitors through his installation at the By the People Festival, a new gathering for arts and dialogue that the DC incubator Halcyon, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, will be putting on this month. The festival aims to bring together artists, performers and speakers to promote empathy and foster important conversations about the nation’s founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This year’s inaugural festival features more than 40 speakers, performers and artists throughout different Washington, D.C. neighborhoods. The Smithsonian’s Art & Industries building serves as the festival’s headquarters. There, a number of immersive and interactive art installations will be on view including Jenny Sabin’s Lux and Maya Freelon’s Reciprocity Respite & Repass among several others; a series of swift “Picnic Talks,” sponsored by the Smithsonian Associates, will feature scientists, artists and experts challenged to speak on unexpected topics; and a host of workshops will instruct on meditation and relaxation, guided art making and creative writing instruction.

The festival’s overarching goal fits perfectly with Keeling’s mission of teaching the community that art—especially through comics—can be a worthwhile expressive endeavor for anyone.