Skip directly to content

The CONtact Teen Pop Culture Convention

on Wed, 07/29/2015 - 00:00

CONtact Teen Pop Culture Convention
Pittsburgh may not have a major Pop Culture convention like San Diego, New York or Seattle but does offer a plethora of similar—albeit smaller—events year round nonetheless. From Steel City Con in Monroeville to the science fiction-themed Confluence, from Monster Bash to Horror Realm, to even the Japanese Pop Culture-tinged Tekko and the Anthrocon of the Furries, the region caters to a wide variety of genres and their fans. In 2013, meanwhile, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh decided to fill one of the few remaining voids in the Steel City with CONtact, a pop culture convention geared towards teens.

“Library staff recognized that teens were interested in Pop Culture, gaming and cosplay,” Leah Durand, Teen Services Manager of the Carnegie Library’s main branch in Oakland, explains of the event’s origination. “Traditional cons are expensive and usually attended by adults. We started CONtact to give teens a con experience. There are so many events that teens cannot attend because of age limits, transportation issues, or admission fees. CONtact helps bridge that gap by providing transportation to teens outside of the Oakland neighborhood and offering a day of fun and activity for free. It is vital to have a place that teens in the community feel comfortable coming to, and by hosting events such as CONtact, the Library shows teens in the neighborhood and in the city that we are a safe place to explore and celebrate their passions.”

To accomplish their mission, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh packed CONtact with a full array of activities. Along with traditional comic-con proceedings centered on comic books, for instance, there are plenty of craft-making opportunities, ranging from buttons and fuze beads to paper origami Nintendo characters.

Cosplay is a major activity at any Pop Culture convention, meanwhile, and CONtact has its own Cosplay Costume Creation Station to assist teens in the crafting of their own outfits, as well as a Cosplay Costume Showcase scheduled for later in the day. Board games, Pokémon battles and trivia contests round out the list of activities—all specifically geared towards keeping attendees entertained throughout the event.

The 2015 edition of CONtact likewise contained a special screening of The Dumpster Cats: Rise of the Monocle, a project of the Carnegie Library’s Carrick branch. The film follows the exploits of the “World’s 38th Greatest Organization for Paranormal Investigation and Elimination”—better known as the Dumpster Cats—as they battle a “dangerous figure from the organization’s past who emerges from the shadows of time to destroy the group and wreak unspeakable horror upon the world.”

The Dumpster Cats: Rise of the Monocle was part of the Teen Summer Film Project at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and follows in the footsteps 2013’s Chairpocalypse and 2014’s Chairpocalypse: Never Say Never Say Never. Every aspect of production was handled by local teens between the ages of eleven and nineteen, filmed and edited together over the course of several months.

“The three films all take place in the same shared cinematic universe,” Jon Antoszewski of Carnegie Library – Carrick explains. “There are loads of references in the new movie to the past two. However, Chairpocalypse: Never Say Never Say Never was the first to feature the Dumpster Cats, a fictitious paranormal investigation and elimination organization developed by the teens. The film universe is further supplemented by original stories developed for our annual Haunted Library event, which is a public haunted house presented by the teens each fall.”

Although it may seem odd for a library to sponsor a Pop Culture convention, it actually aligns with the changing role of libraries in the Twenty First Century from a mere depository of books to a community center that features activities geared towards the greater community-at-large—a community that includes the young adult segment of the population.

“It shows teens who use the Library that we recognize and respond to their interests,” Leah Durand says of CONtact. “CONtact provides an opportunity for teens from all over the city to come together to celebrate Pop Culture and explore their hobbies. It creates the opportunity for them to meet like-minded people, find out about new comics and manga, and have fun.”

By constructing CONtact with the same features of more adult-themed conventions around the country, meanwhile, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has transformed many of the benefits associated with such events into something likewise enjoyable to teens in the Steel City. “Comic-cons allow people to explore their identities and cultures through cosplay and anime stories and film,” Durand continues. “Teens are at the point in their life where they are trying to figure out who they are and how to fit into the world around them. Exploring their likes and dislikes through cosplay and comic-cons are one way they do that.”

Teens within the Steel City now have their own Pop Culture convention to not only explore their likes and dislikes with each other but to have some fun in the process as well—all courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Anthony Letizia

Follow Geek Pittsburgh: Facebook - Twitter - RSS Feed