Varvel wins Cartooning With a Conscience award

Gary Varvel, editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star, has won the 2010 Grambs Aronson Award for Cartooning With a Conscience for a series he did last summer portraying the pressures and difficulties for the poor in Indianapolis. (Read my report on his series)

Judges said they found his series entitled “The Path to Hope” “extraordinary in both style and substance.”

From the press release:

“There was a detailed empathy for the lives of impoverished Indianapolis citizens that is rare even in print journalistic accounts,” said Peter Parisi, award coordinator and associate professor in the department of film and media studies at Hunter College, New York City, where the award originates.

“The series was unusual in calling upon the artist to play reporter as well,” Parisi said, as Varvel searched out and interviewed residents who confronted different social problems and volunteers who offered help.

Varvel’s graphic skill also won plaudits.

The multiple panels of each chapter were displayed on full broadsheet pages, a sort of newspaper graphic novel. “They would be very hard to just page by,” Parisi said.

In individual panels, Varvel used digitally filtered photography for backgrounds with characters rendered in a pen-and-ink style that combined realistic facial features with traditional comic caricature.

Varvel will accept his award and discuss his work at an award ceremony from 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, March 30 in the Lang recital Hall, Fourth Floor, Hunter College North Building, E. 69th St. between Park and Lexington avenues.

Also on hand will be winners of the companion Aronson Award, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in its 21st year. The Grambs Aronson cartooning award has been offered since 1999, when Jules Feiffer and Art Spiegelman were honored. The contest for 2010 marked the first year in which entries were invited from all professional cartoonists.

“The quality of the work was astonishing and inspiring – choosing a single winner, agonizing,” Parisi said, adding that the innovativeness and ambition of Varvel’s project tilted the judgment in his favor.

Varvel, on being told of the award, said the series had been inspired by Tim Swarens, editor for opinions/conversations at the Star. “He encouraged me to try my hand at the graphic novel, if we found the right subject,” Varvel said.

The journalism winners are Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, writing on the public influence of the billionaire brothers, Charles H. and David K. Koch; Jan Goodwin, writing in Ladies’ Home Journal, on the harsh treatment US immigration officials afforded a Sierra Leonean woman fleeing female genital mutilation; and Village Voice Media for a multi-paper series on Latino immigration. Investigative reporter Wayne Barrett will be honored for career achievement.

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