As ‘honest’ as the pen: Revitalized cartoon contest continues to grow

June 2018 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community

Heidi Ambrose of Portland won the 2017 Homer Davenport International Cartoon Contest Grand Prize. Gus Frederick

By Peggy Savage

It is said that everyone enjoys a good political cartoon, so, if you could help choose an award-winning cartoon, what would it be? Since 1984, the Homer Davenport International Cartoon Contest has been a part of Silverton’s annual festival that honors one of America’s most famous political cartoonists. The contemporary political cartoon contest brings entries from around the world, and you can vote on your favorites.

If you are a cartoonist or have seriously thought about giving it a try, the competition provides a chance to show off your best work. As in past years, the competition is for political or editorial cartoons on any topic, as long as the cartoons are not libelous, slanderous, racist, sexist or salacious.

The contest tag-line, “No Honest Man Need Fear Cartoons,” is the caption to the illustration on this year’s contest poster, and may seem especially relevant in today’s political climate, said contest organizer Gus Frederick.

“This seems like a fitting caption to our times as well,” Frederick said.

Originally drawn in 1897, Davenport’s famous cartoon using that caption was inspired by the New York Legislative Assembly’s attempt to ban political cartoons. Frederick said the Anti-Cartoon Bill supposedly was inspired by Homer Davenport’s caustic cartoon caricatures during the 1896 presidential campaign and the 1897 consolidation of New York City. At the time, Davenport was the cartoonist for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. The proposed bill was unceremoniously killed.

As in Silverton’s past cartoon competitions, the work will be judged in three categories: artistic skill, clearly implied message, and the cartoon’s over-all appeal. All prizes are determined by a panel of judges, with five non-cash “People’s Choice” awards determined by popular vote.

Winners will be announced Sunday afternoon at the festival and online at the “Homer Page.” Entries will be prominently displayed in Silverton during the Homer Davenport Community Festival Aug. 3 – 5. Deadline
for submission is July 27.

Prizes for the top cartoons are $750, $500, $300 and $200 respectively. Silverton’s is an international competition and in the past, almost a third of the contest entries came from other countries each year. Frederick said with the increased award amounts, he and fellow organizers hope to see a wider range of cartoons and even larger turnout this year.

What’s really exciting for Frederick is that the contest is bringing in more entries from new and emerging cartoonists. Organizers are also hoping to receive entries from a more diverse population.

“Last year especially, our winners included long-time pros and several first-timers, like our grand prize winner, Heidi Ambrose,” he said. “We are especially interested in the work of new and emerging cartoonists, including from communities of color. I also sent media releases to numerous colleges, art associations and other places.”

Frederick said topics for the political cartoons are “all over the map,” with the national scene taking center stage.

“Of course, being a ‘Mid-Term Year,’ I expect to see many electoral topics,” he said. “The usual ‘chestnuts’ of various social issues, foreign affairs and the old stand-by of climate change are always popular. This is why I am hoping for more entries from other countries, as it is interesting to see what others think is important, which often is different from our own. But sometimes, the same issues transcend culture. We shall see.

“Current times are great for cartoon ideas, but as a profession, cartoonists are not as prevalent as in the ‘Homer Days,’ when newspapers all had entire staffs of cartoonists,” Frederick said. “Now, most are independent subcontractors or sell to syndicates for distribution. Still, the political cartoon is alive and well. But the cartoonists often need work. Hopefully more than a few will see this as an opportunity.”

For the second year, the cartoon entries will be on display in the air-conditioned Silverton City Council Chambers at
421 S. Water St. where festival-goers can participate in the voting for People’s Choice.

“And people really do appreciate the opportunity to vote themselves,” Frederick said. “One can easily get an idea ‘where they are’ politically by their choices.”

The contest entry fee is $25. Rules, official entry forms and more details may be found on the Homer Davenport International Cartoon Contest page at:

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