The CTN Animation Expo (commonly referred to as CTN-X), a popular animation industry event that has taken place in Burbank, California, for the last nine years, is being criticized by a prominent industry figure, who has vowed to never attend the event again.

Bobby Chiu, a concept artist for feature films, founder of the online art school Schoolism, and co-creator of Niko and the Sword of Light, published a Youtube video yesterday in which he denounced the event as “toxic” and accused the event of bullying and abusing artists:

In the video, Chiu talks about a personal experience he had at the event last year, in which the event didn’t give him a presenter’s badge, an oversight that was compounded when event employees yelled at him for being in the presenter’s area because he didn’t have the right badge. He described the experience as “by far the most humiliating, the most belittling experience of my career,” and criticized event organizer Tina Price for not responding appropriately when he told her about what had happened.

Chiu continues, “I love the idea of CTN and the good it could have achieved for artists, but it’s been nearly 10 years and nothing has really been done. And, in my opinion, things have only gotten worse.” He concludes the video by hinting that he may start his own event: “With all that’s happened lately, I can promise you this: I’m going to do something about this so stay tuned.”

Cartoon Brew reached out to CTN founder Tina Price about Chiu’s video. Price responded: “Bobby Chiu is a well respected artist in our community. I met him at CTN and he has been participating with us for 9 years. I read on Facebook after last year’s event that a CTN staffer did not treat him professionally. I called Bobby immediately to discuss the matter and he appreciated my offer to make things right and subsequently accepted my invitation for both he and his wife to enjoy our 10th anniversary this year as my guest. He offered to do a workshop or moderate some panels but I really just wanted to make things right without him having to do anything in return.”

Chiu explains in the video that the tipping point that made him decide to pull out of the event was this Facebook post from last Monday by painter Tiffanie Mang, in which she detailed her experience of putting on an art show with Price and CTN-X’s sister organizations, Creative Talent Network and Center Stage Gallery.

The show of Mang’s paintings was prematurely aborted after just one evening. Mang wrote that two days before the opening of her exhibit, Price told her that the exhibit couldn’t take place at the scheduled location because the space didn’t have the proper insurance for the paintings. Mang was initially told the show would be relocated to Price’s Center Stage Gallery, but was subsequently informed that there would be no show and to just come and pick up her artwork.

When Mang picked up her artwork, she discovered that numerous frames and one of her paintings had been damaged. “I tried to call Tina, who didn’t pick up, and refused to arrange any future appt. to talk to me on the phone,” Mang wrote on a public Facebook post that Chiu linked to in his Youtube video description. “In the end, I sent a detailed and professional email, to which she replied that SHE was insulted at the accusations I made ( although I sent her proof of pictures) and since the pieces have left the gallery, there is nothing they can do about it. No apology, no nothing.”

Price told Cartoon Brew that health issues had prevented her from addressing the situation earlier, but that the matter has been resolved: “Tiffanie Mang is a talented painter who I have been honored to meet and work with on multiple occasions. I don’t know if you are aware but I underwent major surgery on June 27th that included a lengthy recovery period. Recently I have felt well enough to deal with all business matters and a check was sent to her for the damaged art and frames.” [Update: Mang has said on social media that while she received a check from Price, she didn’t accept the money.]

As CTN-X has continued to expand in recent years, its treatment of artists, exhibitors, and attendees has come under increasing scrutiny. One of the first well known industry figures to speak out was Stephen Silver, who published this video in 2016 explaining why he could no longer support event:

Following last year’s event, there was widespread criticism on social media about how the event charged for portfolio reviews while preventing exhibiting artists from giving free portfolio reviews on the show floor. Both of those practices are uncommon at such industry events, and generated accusations that the event was taking advantage of young artists trying to break into the industry. Already, some artists on social media have stated that they would flout the event’s rules and offer free portfolio reviews on the exhibition floor this year.

CTN-X’s tenth anniversary event is set to take place this November in Burbank, California. “I wish everything would work perfectly all the time but since that is not possible, I continue to do my best to fix what I can and to provide a great service,” Price tells Cartoon Brew. “It is amazing to me that it has been 10 years since CTN-X began and I’m looking forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary this year.”

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