A crowd of artists, cosplayers, anime lovers, gamers, and more came together at EMU’s first annual anime and gaming convention, Washi Con, in McKenny Hall this past Saturday.
The theme for the event was “the reciprocal relationship between eastern and western media”.
“I never been to a convention before and always wanted to,” said EMU senior social work major, Jasmyn Tooles. “I felt like this would be great way to do so because it’s super close to home, it’s in familiar territory and it’s new.”
Created by EMU second year graduate in the Creative Writing Program, Lee Schwinghamer, and first year graduate in the Textiles Studies Program, Emily Schwinghamer, Washi Con was created to expose cartoon lovers to a free experimental space of a “real world application” to fandom.
“We really wanted to make a free, fun, hands on experience where people could learn to use their fandom in new and unexpected ways,” said Schwinghamer.
Professor of Applied Drama at EMU, Jessica “Decky” Alexander suggested the idea of a convention to Schwinghamer when he was looking for a spare graduate assistantship credit.
“I thought I would do a somatic writing project on cartoons or some sort of critical work and she suggest I go big and plan a convention,” he said.
Gathering the nerdy community of Ypsilanti and visitors around the Midwest, the convention engaged the attendees through games in the game room, Japanese animation viewings, a cosplay contest, panels and workshops, and a Washi CONcert that was held later in the night at CrossRoads Bar & Grill.
Special guests at the convention included award winning cosplay artist Rakeru of Limitless Disguise Cosplay, screenwriter and professor at the University of Carolina Northrup Davis, podcast and gamer Scott Pell, and Japanese animation industry veteran and public speaker, Jan Scott Frazier.
When not engaging in events, attendees could enjoy browsing and buying fan-based products by local and national store owners in the Ballroom.
Megan Browski, the store owner of Pixel Spam was in attendance at her booth selling handmade crafts and drawings. Calling Washi Con a small convention compared to others, she said she liked it and that small conventions were peaceful and less hectic.
Couple, Stuart Jones and his wife Alaina Prana had a mix of gamers and plush-lovers at their store booth, Loading Crew Crafts. Prana designed bookmarks, stickers, buttons, prints and handmade plushies and pillows. Jones was the developer of the game, Jelly Realms, which drew in the gamers.
At the end of the day, Schwinghamer referred to the convention as a success.
“We were able to provide for so many more people than we had originally expected and were able to have great guests. It also was a truly community based experience with all levels of society, including the building staff and DPS, participating in the events, panels, and workshops.”
Steven Cole and the EMU Government, local anime and gaming communities, and volunteers were included in the help that the two creators needed.
“Steven Cole and the EMU government truly is there to help students with whatever ideas their campus comes up with. It was really an amazing opportunity and allowed us to really provide two things that we couldn’t do without their support: A truly safe space and a space devoid of sponsorship pressures.” Said Schwinghamer.
With community engagement and expression and creativity flowing, the event concluded with Schwinghamer expressing appreciation of Washi Con and its impact of a “revolutionary level of community participation”.