On Friday June 5th I met with Miles Baker, TCAF’s Managing Director, and Peter Birkemoe, owner of The Beguiling and TCAF’s Co-Founder and primary sponsor, to let them know I would not continue in my role as Artistic Director of TCAF for the rest of 2020 and beyond. I had hoped to relinquish all of my responsibilities to TCAF, and to do so for two reasons—to address persistent health and wellness issues in my own life that I had neglected, and in the hopes that existing staff and potential staff and volunteers might be able to move up into the organization into leadership roles that I was abdicating. I’d been doing so much for so long that I didn’t feel I could let go of, until I realized that letting go completely was the best thing that I could do for both the festival and myself. I offered to do whatever was asked of me to ensure that the Festival could and would continue, in an advisory role. I wasn’t going to announce this publicly until more work had been done, but given the criticism that both TCAF and myself have received today I wanted to provide this information that I feel is relevant to the discussion, about the steps that I personally, as well as the organization, are taking.
The Festival continuing in my absence was not a given until just this year. I invested 17 years of my life into building it, many staff and volunteers have done the same for more than a decade now, and I didn’t want that to be wasted. Succession planning and continuity became key goals of the Festival through 2018 and 2019, largely thanks to Miles trying to make it a priority, trying to build more group management and non-hierarchical structure within the organization, and to do the hard work of putting together an active Board of Directors that could help manage and create continuity year to year. These are things that have happened, and will continue to happen, to grow and improve the Festival, and I’ve done my best to support those necessary changes while trying to maintain a vision of the festival that prioritizes creators.
Peter and I co-founded TCAF to meet a need in Toronto, and in the larger comics industry. I’m tremendously proud of everyone who has donated their time and energy into the Festival succeeding as it has, and I sincerely apologize to those staff and volunteers who haven’t felt their contribution appropriately recognized, either by me specifically or by the organization as a whole. I hope that the work TCAF does continues, because comics needs as many possible outlets for creators to promote and sell their work, network, and build their artistic careers, and I truly believe in the positive effect that TCAF has had on the medium and industry.
I’m truly fortunate to have people in my life who care for me and who reached out when they noticed I wasn’t doing well this month, and I appreciate everyone who reached out to check on me. I completely resigned last Wednesday June 22nd to address my wellbeing more urgently, and I’m grateful to Miles and the Board for stepping in to cover my responsibilities. I’d like to thank the Board and the staff past and present for everything they’ve invested in the Festival.
I also want to acknowledge the criticism that the Festival and I specifically have received, particularly around issues of support, inclusion, and recognition of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people. I understand these criticisms and I believe they are necessary to address imbalances within the organization. I sincerely apologize for the role I played in devaluing the contributions of members of staff and volunteers. I believe in both statements that TCAF has made this week, and believe that TCAF will continue to improve and be a necessary part of comics. I’m committed to these same principles of improvement for myself—I want to be better and I want to step back completely and take the time to do so.
In closing, if you helped make TCAF what it is along the way, in any capacity, I sincerely appreciate it, thank you. Working with an amazing crew to build TCAF was the hardest thing I’ve done, but I’m glad I got to do it. I hope to see it continue, to thrive, to meet the needs of an evolving comics industry, and I sincerely hope that the larger community will continue to offer their support and participation.
- Christopher Butcher