When Cheri Ayers-Small first discovered cosplay, she dove into the lifestyle of dressing up as comic and fantasy characters with incredibly elaborate costumes, hair designs and makeup.
Then, two years ago, the Louisiana-based cosplayer started attending cons — conventions, for short, for lovers of comics and fantasy worlds — and Ayers-Small found a way to connect with others who shared her passion.
“Communicating with other cosplayers jump-starts my creative energy,” said Ayers-Small, who goes by the name Ninja Yoyo in the cosplay world.
The COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing precautions have forced cons across the country to cancel, disappointing fans who look forward to mixing with the like-minded. But the East Baton Rouge Parish Library has found a way to keep its three-year-old convention going.
All day Saturday, the library is taking its Mid City Micro-Con online with the theme "Creating the Future, Expanding Our Universe.” The Micro-Con will include online cosplay competitions and trivia contests, scavenger hunts, and presentations and discussions featuring artists, writers and experts.
Organizers, who are all devotees of various realms of comics, sci-fi and fantasy worlds, hope to bring people together during a time of social-distancing.
“This can be an isolating experience,” said Ned Denby, a business librarian at the Main Library and a member of the Micro-Con committee. “By giving people a way to interact more directly with different aspects of the con, we hope that it will give that feeling of connection, and that is what cons are really about.”
In its first two years, hundreds of fans of comics, anime and fantasy worlds gathered at the Main Library on Goodwood Boulevard. They could mingle and connect with other fans and then browse the market to discover new artists and writers, said Jessica McDaniel, a community programming and outreach librarian.
“That was one of our challenges — how are we going to facilitate that discovery of all these wonderful creators?” McDaniel said. “That was the No. 1 challenge.”
To instill that sense of discovery to the event, the Micro-Con committee members used a tool they have seen teachers use in virtual classrooms — an online scavenger hunt.
“This year that element is missing, so the scavenger hunt is a way for our creatives to be discovered and to drive more people to their artwork and give them the exposure that the physical con would give them,” said Nicollette Davis, a reference librarian and member of the Micro-Con committee. “The virtual scavenger hunt can drive traffic to their website.”
Ayers-Small is looking forward to the Micro-Con. This event and other virtual cons have helped bring a sense of normalcy to her life during the pandemic.
“Events like Mid City Micro-Con going virtual have been a tremendous help,” said Ayers-Small, who will be a judge in the cosplay competition. “I've been able to collaborate with people across the country that I may have not sought out otherwise.”
Most events at the Micro-Con will be streamed through YouTube Live with a few Zoom sessions for panel discussions.
Husband and wife Antoine “Ghost” Mitchell and Erica “Ayxa” Williams-Mitchell, Baton Rouge artists, will make their first Zoom presentation at 4 p.m. Saturday. They'll lead a workshop on building worlds and their graphic novel, "Sankofa’s Eymbrace," a work 19 years in the making.
“I want the world to know that you can embrace and love your culture and use that as an airship,” Mitchell said. “Get aboard that airship and explore other cultures and ways of life with an open mind for learning. It will make creating so much freer and fun.”
For three years, the Mid City Micro-Con organizers have focused on a mission of diversity and inclusion and have featured creators of all races, ethnicities and gender identities.
“People who often may not get the spotlight they deserve or they want to have,” Davis said. “I’m excited that we can give the space for them to talk about their art and talk about the issues they may be facing in their field, whether it is cosplay or comics or whatever they create.”
Mid City Micro-Con 'Creating the Future, Expanding Our Universe'
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Free online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK2kYLri7ac&feature=youtu.be
A schedule of events is available at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website at ebrpl.com. Free Wi-Fi is available at all library branches for those who cannot connect from home, and libraries have a limited number of earbuds available for patrons to listen to the Micro-Con discussions and workshops.
Questions? Email email@example.com.