[2020 is almost in the books and the AAEC Notebook is at the printer. You should get your Year-in-Review as we escape into 2021. Here’s the letter from President Kevin Siers that kicks off the next issue.]
While the expression “may you live in interesting times” is characterized as a curse, for cartoonists it has always been a blessing, this year more than most. And even with the timely arrival of coronavirus vaccines and the official vote of the electoral college, next year promises to be just as interesting. Politicalization, polarization and partisanship still persist, not to mention just plain reality-denying craziness. And sharp pencils and pens in the hands of sharp cartoonists will still be needed to puncture the bubble wrap of lies continually being spun out by our political culture. And the AAEC will still be supporting us cartoonists, championing our rights and our mission as essential to liberty in the United States and the world.
While 2020 had almost too many opportunities for satire, it was a hard year for many of our members. Job losses and layoffs continued to afflict our colleagues as newspapers continued to struggle amid the cuts of corporate bean counters. Many of those still employed had to find new drawing digs, as newsroom offices closed or were vacated due to work-from-home orders or even more budget cuts. And the coronavirus wasn’t just a cartoon topic, but a very real concern for several of our comrades, as they, like so many in the nation, were infected by the virus, or had to deal with its impact on family and friends.
The pandemic wiped out almost all the AAEC’s scheduled 2020 events and meetings as well. It was very disappointing to have to cancel our joint convention this spring with the Canadian cartoonists. Both our groups are looking towards Fall of 2021, hoping to reprise that gathering. Fall is the new Spring! And while we could only participate in the Cartoonist Crossroads Columbus (CXC) festival virtually this year, it remains an important event for our group and we continue to plan some level of joint activity with them next year.
Still, the zoom happy hours organized by JP Trostle and our manager, Kelsey Maher, were a hit and a welcome opportunity to catch up with colleagues over our favorite beverages. And during this year’s virtual CXC festival we were able to welcome our latest Locher winner, Catherine Gong, to our ranks. Also during that CXC weekend, Terry Anderson of the Cartoonist Rights Network International virtually presented the Robert Russell Courage in Cartooning award to Amed Kabir Kishore of Bangladesh. And we presented the AAEC’s Ink Bottle award to Adam Zyglis, JP Trostle and Ed Hall for their work in designing and finally completing our long-awaited web site. While much tinkering remains to be done on aaecrebuild.wpengine.com to make it as smoothly functional as we would like, we finally have a new look and a stable platform from which to promote cartooning and satire to the world in the years ahead.
And that art form is as important as ever. The outrage and controversies that surrounded so many cartoons and cartoonists this last year are a testament to the power of graphic satire and its ability to both cast light on dark times and to provoke change. It’s been a privilege for me these last couple of years to be a part of a group that promotes and defends the work of such a talented and brave bunch of artists. Unlike an orange-daubed president we know, I’m happily stepping down now and welcoming Jen Sorensen as she takes over the reigns of AAEC President for the 2021-2022 term. Please wish her and the newly-elected AAEC Board of Directors all the best as they explore new ideas and approaches to keep our profession strong, viable and healthy on the front lines of opinion journalism.
Thank you all for all your efforts in our common cause. Be safe, be strong and be brave. And kick ass.
AAEC President 2019-2020
Editor’s note: And a big thank you to Kevin Siers, the first AAEC President to serve under the new two-year term setup.
Sign of the times — Kevin Siers (above) prepares to move out of his corner studio at the Charlotte Observer. The newsroom shut down for Covid safety reasons in the spring of 2020, and a few months later McClatchy announced it would not renew the lease on the office space. Its journalists now work virtually from home. Photo courtesy of Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer