NORTH EAST — While fans of sci-fi, fantasy, anime and gaming may not always see their interests represented in the mainstream, Cecil College’s Cecil Con on April 12-13 aims to give those folks a place to unabashedly let their geek flag fly.
“It’s a place where you can come and express yourself without judgement,” said Shawn Markey, director of lifelong learning at Cecil College. “It’s fun for everybody and it’s fun for the entire family. It’s a day where you can come in, just let loose, have a great time and see all these different cool things that we have to offer.”
Tickets cost $5 for Friday only, $10 for Saturday only, and $12 for both days. There will be free admission for Cecil College students, faculty, and staff (though they must show a valid Cecil College ID); people 65 and older; and children 3 and under.
Cecil Con will kick off from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 12, with an art show opening reception, anime rooms, gaming areas and other activities.
The third annual Cecil Con art show will showcase 83 pieces created by 30 artists. Although the show has featured works by teen artists in previous years, this is the first year there will be a designated teen section with artworks by five teen artists from various high schools in the area, according to gallery organizer Meredith Keating.
“The first two years, we didn’t turn them away but we only had one or two teens each year,” Keating said. “This is the year that we made it official. They have their own section, and we reached out to the local high schools to really try to push those submissions.”
Keating will have some of her own fiber art circular weavings in the show, including a piece inspired by galaxies and the video game “Katamari Damacy,” an alien cat piece, and a UFO piece.
There were no prompts or thematic guidelines the artists had to adhere to, but Keating said that when she and her colleagues were curating the show they tried to have a good representation of the four main Cecil Con themes: sci-fi, fantasy, anime and gaming.
Keating said she personally gravitates to the sci-fi genre, adding that she has a Star Wars sleeve tattoo on her arm.
While these themes may not be as prevalent in other more traditional gallery shows, Keating said Cecil Con’s art exhibition strives to put underrepresented artistic mediums, such as 3D modeling and digital art, and underrepresented themes, such as sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and gaming-related art, on full display.
“This art show gives these creators a platform to share their work and represent geeky culture and the arts,” she said.
Keating said people should stop by the art show to experience something new and unexpected.
“They should come out because they’re going to see something that they have not seen before,” she said. “This is not artwork that is typically represented in galleries and in exhibits. This is definitely a new experience for a lot of people.”
Keating added that Milburn Stone Theatre will also be debuting their production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” that night, and encouraged people to purchase a ticket to the show.
“I encourage people to come for the art, stay for the show, and really be a patron that evening,” she said.
The gallery reception is free to attend and people can pay $5 to stay for the rest of the Friday night Cecil Con events.
Also on Friday, people can sign up to be part of the 24-hour Game Jam Competition. Those individuals will break up into teams and stay at Cecil College overnight to develop a video game based on an assigned task, Markey said.
“They’re given a task,” he said. “It’s something where they completely come into it new. They don’t know about it, and they create and develop the video game based on that task overnight. So they only get 24 hours.”
The next day, judges will select the winning team and award them a prize for their victory.
Attendees will be able to return from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 13, for another day of Cecil Con.
Artists and vendors will be selling their works at the Artist Alley, Author Alley and Vendor Hall on Saturday.
While some artworks in Friday’s art show will be for sale, Keating said everything at the Artist Alley on Saturday will be for sale.
“That’s where people can buy art from local artists as well as people from the Tri-State area in general, so Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland,” she said.
The convention will also feature several guest speakers such as Erin Dean, author of “For the Love of Board Games,” and James Rolfe, known as “The Angry Video Game Nerd” on YouTube.
In just 24 hours, Dean crowdfunded money to publish her book, which explores the development of modern, popular board games.
Markey said he is excited to hear from Rolfe, who plays a lot of the video games that Markey himself grew up with.
“He puts this interesting spin on old video games that we used to play as children, so something along the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Markey said. “He plays a lot of the old Nintendo, Sega, and Atari video games and does a lot of funny commentary, a lot of satire. He’s got a big following on YouTube with 3 million subscribers, so this would be a big special guest for us.”
There will be a cosplay contest, bands all day in the quad, food trucks, panels, workshops and other activities on Saturday.
With Cecil Con in its sixth year, Markey credits the event’s success to the partners who make it happen and the fans who show up so enthusiastically year after year.
“It’s growing every year,” he said. “I think it grows because the word of mouth is spreading, how much fun people have at this event, and how much the attendees love the event. They really make the event. Although we have all of these great fun activities, these guys dress up and they spend a lot of time putting together their costumes … They’re ready just to have fun and that’s what makes it such a fun and great event. We do a ton of work to make this happen, but they’re the ones that make it live.”
Attendees can view a full schedule of the two-day convention at www.cecil-con.com.