If you’re reading this post, it’s either because you have attended GZAE in the past or you have heard about us. Either way, you’re here and we want to take the time to thank you, introduce our staff, and help you understand the design of the Expo.
GZEXPO was created when I, Eva Lacy, owned the former brick and mortar “fan*alley“. Unfortunately, the shop had to close, but I wanted to keep helping the art community. Growing up in the 80’s – 2000 in a small NorCal town, Lake County (the area that is battling devastating fires currently), was not a town with many resources for artists. At that time, there wasn’t enrichment unless you went to dance, gymnastics, or sports. A pottery elective in high school was about the most art experience I got from an instructor.
Since the age of 5, doodling on anything available and watching Saturday morning cartoons/animated films was all I could think about. I wanted to learn more about becoming a cartoonist and animator. My mom drove to “the city”, Santa Rosa, to pick up any art instructional videos or books which we returned with some by Bruce Blitz. I would replay his video over and over along with the “Lion King” absorbing every visual detail to become a better artist.
In late 2000 I moved to the “even bigger city”, Los Angeles, where I found myself working the front desk at a small art school in exchange for lessons. Though the lessons were never really fulfilled and offered as agreed, I would hang out with the big freelance pros and studio art directors. I was invited to Nickelodeon studios around 2001/02 to see what happened behind the scenes. This changed my life forever.
Seeing animators at work made me realize I never wanted to be an actual animator. I learned about so many positions such as vis dev, storyboarding, writing, and many more I never knew existed. Sitting in a chair all day, at a desk, not doing what I wanted…it was still a “job”. This got me thinking, had I learned this early on, I would have known what I wanted to do sooner & just be a freelance artist/cartoonist.
In 2013 a creative friend and I opened “A Little Known Shop” where we had 2 successful years selling for artists and makers. I decided at the end of 2014 to have my own shop and opened fan*alley the following summer. The new space focused on rotating galleries & selling strictly for freelance & industry artists to create a name for themselves. Whether they were working at a studio or not, I wanted to help share not only their art, but their stories with customers.
Just shy of a year as my own shop, the realization that a hidden location just wasn’t cutting it and also making me stir crazy, I decided to move on. I wanted to create a pop-up event that could still offer the same opportunity my shop did without the storefront & overhead. With some quick planning to make the transition, the Artist Lodge & GZAEXPO were born.
The Artist Lodge currently runs 4 times a year, and to focus more on GZAEXPO, I appointed a new creative curator in 2017, Marissa Suto. Marissa is one of our dedicated GZAEXPO staff members & a fellow artist. She has been helping with these events and vending since the first Artist Lodge in 2016.
This brings us to GZAEXPO, my pride and joy. I wanted to create an educational experience affordable to vendors, attendees and professionals. Our first annual event was held in February 2016 with only 3 months of planning. Knowing talent from selling art in my old shop, I had a great selection of professionals and up-and-coming vendors to create a unique 1-day event. At the end of the first show, the discussion of the 2nd annual event was in high demand and attendees hinted for this 1 day Expo to become 2 days.
It’s extremely hard to balance both the desire to grow & staying true to a grassroots vibe while remaining affordable. The Expo was designed to help those seeking to be a part of the industry by educating them through portfolio/resume reviews, panels, workshops and more. I kept to a smaller location & intimate setting where each attendee could be heard and seen with a one-on-one experience. Had something like this existed when I was young, it would have helped me choose what I wanted to do at a younger age. GZAE encourages the importance of freelancing and building a body of work in case studio jobs didn’t work out or if they are in between studios.
Why Orange County?
I am based in Orange County, CA. Those of us that live here are always driving to Burbank, Pasadena, San Gabriel, downtown LA, etc. to attend workshops, conventions, galleries and more. This is exactly why we need a show like this to exist here. We have students here too as well as LA, so it was important to bring the arts down here a few times a year. It doesn’t hurt that Disneyland is also a hop, skip and a quick drive from our new location.
When will you move to a bigger venue?
The Expo is affordable right now due to a reasonable overhead. If we grow, we want it to be organic & because we absolutely must due to safety/being comfortable. Right now you can do so much at GZAEXPO because we are budget friendly. Attendees can speak to professionals quite easily, get a one-on-one portfolio and resume reviews by No Hiatus or sometimes right at professional vendor tables. The professionals we accept aren’t there just to sell, though it is a perk, they are there to share what they know because they were once there too. For this, I am extremely grateful.
I couldn’t create a successful event without the incredible staff, professionals, sponsors, volunteers and talented vendors each year. We are continuing to grow but ask that you be patient with us as it’s a learning process. Each year is different and exciting. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see this grassroots event grow so quickly. I have always believed in an event taking place in any location because it’s not always the location that makes the event great, but what magic happens in it.
How will you continue to make the Expo great?
Being a vendor myself at similar shows, I know what it’s like to be on the “other side”. I will always do my best to write my wrongs, hear the suggestions of attendees, staff, volunteers, and vendors who reach out and give me a chance. I’ll do everything I can to keep the Expo alive and thriving. We can’t please everyone, but we will certainly try. My intentions are to create a great experience & make an event worthy of all who attend and take part.
We are so excited to make GZAEXPO last all year long by creating classes each month! Same affordable rates with top professionals and freelance pros to share what they know. We always post about upcoming workshops, lectures, and panels each month so you have the opportunity to get limited tickets.
Please also remember it’s a 2-way road. There is so much going on behind the scenes you cannot see & may never know. We ask that you give this growing EXPO a chance to make things right before assuming or posting about a poor experience. So far almost everyone who has reached out privately with any concerns have ended up satisfied with our response or explanation. Making anyone upset, ignoring issues or creating experiences is never a goal. “Our door is always open” and we love to hear from anyone who wants to help by sharing experiences from the event. Each year the staff learns something new, or several things for that matter, and WE CAN’T GROW UNLESS WE KNOW.
Thank you for sharing about our event and taking the time to get to know the EXPO and me. It takes all of us to make a successful event you’ll want to come back to. We are small, but we are MIGHTY!
Save the date for next year: June 8th and 9th
Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: @gzaexpo
Coming soon: Meet the GZAEXPO Staff
Photos on right by @artfultita