GenCon recently announced a change to their longstanding Artist Guest of Honor by having three artists highlighted instead of one, rebranding it as Featured Artists.
Normally, the GenCon artists guest of honor is given to one artist who has prominent placement in the art show, pays no fee for their table and has a larger space to have prints, paintings and products at the GenCon Art Show area. This was a resume building honor, raising the prominence of a young artist, or be a strong incentive for a living master to attend GenCon, luring them there. The previous eleven honorees have all been Magic: The Gathering artists:
- Donato Giancola (2017) 50th anniversary
- Tyler Jacobson (2016)
- Tony DiTerlizzi (2015)
- Terese Nielsen (2014)
- Brom (2013)
- Todd Lockwood (2012)
- Jeff Miracola (2011)
- Tom Baxa (2010)
- Omar Rayyan (2009)
- Rebecca Guay (2008)
- Larry Elmore (2007)
Via their website's art show area:
With any change, there are benefits and negative ramifications. As a very logical benefit, this feels like a push for artist representation, as you can find more artists of color and women visible in that space. Two of the last eleven were women and all past eleven were white artists. In a niche part of the artist industry, breaking in for new artists is difficult. When institutional barriers exist like a smaller community, mentors, and knowledge, less represented artists could use some equity to aid the whole industry. I'm a little surprised that a black or Latinx artist wasn't chosen if that were the initiative, though in the first year of this new format, perhaps they tried and were unsuccessful.
This does unfortunately eliminate the artist Guest of Honor, as the title no longer exists. With artists needing to submit their artworks with fees for book annuals, this is one of the few honorary benefits artists can gain in their careers that doesn't cost them anything. One has to assume GenCon struggled to find a singular titan in the industry in their 51st year, or the cost of the artist Guest of Honor was eliminated in a cost-savings measure. Having Donato Giancola as the 50th anniversary Guest of Honor last year is a hard act to follow and a change of direction is not unexpected. I hope this new format is beneficial to the three artists.