Vault of Midnight offers networking opportunities for art students

Sarah Edgecomb

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 Nestled in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Vault of Midnight offers shelves upon shelves of comic books, manga and graphic novels. Unique figurines, pins, apparel, board games and toys accompany the books and draw in both avid and occasional comic book readers alike. As a local comic store, Vault of Midnight collaborates with art students to get their work out there.

As part of this goal to help young artists, Vault of Midnight holds their Illustration Roadshow event each winter, allowing Grand Valley State University students to organize tables to sell their work, including art, comics, pins and zines.

Manager Charley Tucker said that the Illustration Roadshow began several years ago when GVSU illustration professors Guin Thompson and Durwin Talon reached out to Vault of Midnight to offer this opportunity to senior illustration students. Thompson and Talon, who write and illustrate comic books, aimed for students to get experience with “real-life networking.” Tucker said that the Illustration Roadshow gives students this opportunity.

“(Thompson and Talon) felt it was important for these students to have some real-world experience of talking about their art, meeting people and just promoting themselves,” Tucker said. “They set up a big display in our store and for that afternoon it’s like a small, local marketplace.”

“It was a fantastic success for all of us, not just for selling our art, but allowing the community to see what kind of work we do,” said illustration senior Catherine Brieden.

While the Illustration Roadshow gives soon-to-be art graduates contacts and networking skills, it also gives them a chance to raise money. The revenue from this year’s Illustration Roadshow went toward the seniors’ final show, “The Collective,” according to Brieden.

Vault of Midnight also aims to support any local artists by selling their work. Tucker said that the store carries comic books and art by young children, high school students and university students, citing that this gives artists different “avenues” to promote their work.

“We have a lot of local creators and a lot of them are students. We’ve really promoted work by students of any age,” Tucker said. 

Opening its first location in Ann Arbor in 1996, Vault of Midnight has recently expanded to Detroit in 2016 and Grand Rapids in 2013. As a smaller store, the Grand Rapids outlet works to give back to the community, with a Feb. 23 event teaching children about comic books with the help of GVSU illustration students. Tucker said the store’s regular customers enjoy supporting local artists, especially students, within Grand Rapids’ art-focused community.

“It’s just a way for us to promote locally-produced, handmade, independent art and small press in our store,” Tucker said.

As the store expands, Tucker said that they aim for an “open market for everybody,” explaining that comics have changed over the years to include more topics, art styles and people. She said that this diversity helps “grow the medium,” and that Vault of Midnight wants to contribute to this growth through varying artists and styles.

“For comics specifically, I think for many, many years it was sort of an exclusive thing. People only thought there was one type of comic book. As we start to really expand that media form, we’re seeing all kinds of different styles…it’s become a lot more inclusive,” Tucker said. “So especially for students who are just getting into it, we want to keep expanding it and show that for comics and graphic novels and illustration as an art form…there are no limits.”