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Art & Museums

ToonSeum drawing to a Downtown close; pop-up programming planned

Mary Pickels
| Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, 8:57 p.m.
ToonSeum board President Marcel Walker during Ka-Blam! — ToonSeum Fundraiser at Teamsters Temple Banquet Hall in this 2015 photo. The ToonSeum has announced plans to close its Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh doors on Feb. 24  and embark on a year-long 'curtains drawn' series of programming and fundraising.
Mike Mancini | for Trib Total Media
ToonSeum board President Marcel Walker during Ka-Blam! — ToonSeum Fundraiser at Teamsters Temple Banquet Hall in this 2015 photo. The ToonSeum has announced plans to close its Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh doors on Feb. 24 and embark on a year-long 'curtains drawn' series of programming and fundraising.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Cartoonist Joe Wos delivered a Bam! Pow! Zap! fashion statement during the Beverly's Birthday celebration at the Children's Musuem of Pittsburgh on the Northside of Pittsburgh in this 2015 photo. Wos founded the Pittsburgh ToonSeum, which had its beginnings at the Children's Museum before moving to Liberty Avenue. Board members have announced the ToonSeum will close on Feb. 24 and begin a year-long 'curtains drawn' period of programming and fundraising.
John Altdorfer
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Cartoonist Joe Wos delivered a Bam! Pow! Zap! fashion statement during the Beverly's Birthday celebration at the Children's Musuem of Pittsburgh on the Northside of Pittsburgh in this 2015 photo. Wos founded the Pittsburgh ToonSeum, which had its beginnings at the Children's Museum before moving to Liberty Avenue. Board members have announced the ToonSeum will close on Feb. 24 and begin a year-long 'curtains drawn' period of programming and fundraising.
Giant cartoonish statues of musicians stand outside the Toonseum on Liberty Avenue.
Renee Rosensteel
Giant cartoonish statues of musicians stand outside the Toonseum on Liberty Avenue.
Although the museum itself has closed, Pittsburgh's Toonseum still offers special programming, including activities May 19-20 at the EQT Children's Theater Festival and 3 Rivers Comicon.
Tribune-Review
Although the museum itself has closed, Pittsburgh's Toonseum still offers special programming, including activities May 19-20 at the EQT Children's Theater Festival and 3 Rivers Comicon.

After 10 years of entertaining cartoon aficionados, first as part of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and later at 945 Liberty Ave., the ToonSeum , the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art, will close its doors following a final day of exhibits and a public party on Feb. 24.

In a news release, board members state that pop-up exhibits and lectures are planned across the Pittsburgh region, part of a "curtains drawn" campaign.

The release notes the museum is seeking a "new home for its new mission: championing comics as a force for social good through education while cultivating more inclusive audiences."

"Wonder Woman: Visions" will be the final exhibition at the Downtown location.

"Just as comics characters must be allowed to age, change or otherwise adapt to the world around them in order to remain relevant, so must the Toonseum," board president Marcel Walker says in the release.

"During 'Curtains Drawn,' we will develop programming that reflects and includes more members of our community. More people of color, more women, more members of our LGBTQ communities, more families from neighborhoods across Pittsburgh, more students of all ages from more of our schools," he says.

In an email, ToonSeum founder and former executive director Joe Wos says he has "little contact with the museum and am no longer affiliated with it in any way."

"(I) watched it grow and evolve into one of the nation's finest cartoon art museums. ... My personal feeling on the closing of the ToonSeum's Downtown location is one of sadness and regret. For over a decade, the ToonSeum was a unique hub for geek culture and fans. ... I do not know what the organization's plans are for the future, but I do wish them luck in whatever direction they take," he writes.

"While I do have strong feelings about what the ToonSeum's mission is and what it should be, it is no longer my position or place to try and guide that mission. I am hopeful that the foundations that helped fund the ToonSeum can provide oversight and advice to them in what will likely be a difficult transition. Pittsburgh, with or without the ToonSeum, will always be a center of geek culture and fandom. A building is just a bunch of bricks. The ToonSeum was built by and for its fans, and that spirit will live on no matter what shape or form the ToonSeum takes," Wos adds.

Walker says future plans include hiring an executive director and vetting additional board members, along with choosing a new location and finalizing funding details.

Former executive director John Kelly says in an email that he left his position several months ago.

City of Asylum, the University of Pittsburgh and the Women and Girls Foundation are among the community partners Toonseum plans to work with in future.

"I'm fired up about this historic moment in which big events like the release of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther run and the subsequent 'Black Panther' film have received so much attention," board member Yona Harvey, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh's writing program, says in the release.

"We have a unique opportunity to connect with comics aficionados, people who haven't read comics since they were kids and people who are simply curious about what's happening now. The events we have planned aim to make everyone feel welcome — to ask questions and to foster their curiosities," she says.

Additional 2018 programming includes:

• 3 Rivers Comicon, May 19-20

• KaBlam! Friendraiser, in May

• 24-Hour Comic Shop Day, in October

• Local Comic Shop Day, in November

• "Drawn to Home," a comic book featuring stories of homeless youth, women and veterans, funded by he Staunton Farm Foundation, coming in the fall.

Details: 412-232-0199 or toonseum.org

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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