Southern California’s Anime Expo (held over Fourth of July weekend) is, without a doubt, the largest anime convention in North America, and it continues to expand. With that expansion comes growing pains though, which by all accounts hit pretty hard with their Artist Alley this year.
In previous years, the Artist Alley was housed within the same room as the vendor hall, but this year it was relocated to the Los Angeles Convention Center’s Kentia Hall. While the move, in part, acknowledged the importance of the Artist Alley to the growing convention, conditions in Kentia Hall were, at best, suboptimal.
And by that, I mean it was apparently a friggin’ oven in there.
Things were apparently at their worst on the first couple of days of the convention. Artist Finni Chang wrote on her Tumblr about the conditions:
During setup hours on Day 0 and Day 1, there was little to no air conditioning in Kentia Hall while artists carried in heavy suitcases and built their displays. While I cannot be a primary source of Day 0’s conditions, the temperature during setup hours on Day 1 was hot, muggy, humid, and generally miserable. When I complained to a staff member, they assured us that there would be AC in the room, and sure enough, around 11am I could feel a very light breeze in my area. While this continued for a few hours, the air flow had all but stopped by early afternoon, and the artist alley quickly heated up into an unbearable temperature. It was significantly cooler outside Kentia Hall, and even significantly cooler outdoors upon exiting the convention.
Setup hours on day 2 felt like the air flow had improved. AC was running, although softly, and we waited for attendees to fill the room. But again, the afternoon was sweltering. The number of bodies in a cramped space combined with the physical structure of Kentia Hall made the entire place feel like a sauna. My skin was sticking to itself and nearly every attendee that walked past my table was furiously fanning themselves with a paper fan or a program book.
At 5:30, half an hour before we closed, our table neighbor gave my partner and I Artist Alley claim sheets to fill out. We were all so angry about how hot it was and how, seemingly, the AC had been turned off entirely and how it had ruined our business for the day. They let too many people in and no one could stop and browse our work or risk being trampled, everyone was sluggish and overheated and it was incredibly overwhelming.
When she went to complain about it and ask what they were going to do to fix the situation, she was given the sheets. I was turned in my chair, facing her direction to discuss it, and slowly her voice faded away and I was watching her mouth move but unable to process what she was saying. I remember asking her to repeat herself, and trying so hard to concentrate but my eyes kept rolling back into my head. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor behind our table and my partner was holding ice packs to my face and there were two staff members fanning me and requesting EMTs. Thankfully I hadn’t hit my head, but fell forward into my lap, and was then was moved to the floor.
Complaints have been filed with Anime Expo’s management, and many artists have said they will not return in 2017 if conditions do not improve.
Here’s hoping corrective action is taken before something worse happens.