The prolific author of such beloved Top Shelf comics including American Elf, Johnny Boo, Monkey Vs. Robot and Sketchbook Diaries, James Kochalka has been appointed Cartoonist Laureate of his home state of Vermont. This makes Vermont the second American state offers such an honor, following the appointment of Alaska's Chad Carpenter in 2008. Kolchalka will serve his term for three years, during which time he will commemorate important Vermont events in cartoon form and act as an ambassador for the art of cartooning itself. The appointment will take place March 10.Now living with his family in Burlington, Vermont, Kochalka was born in Springfield, Vermont in 1967 and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1989, which more than establishes the cartoonist's homegrown bonafides. Kochalka's appointment is endorsed by Vermont's Governor Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Arts Council.

"By establishing the nation's first cartoonist laureate, Vermont adds an illustrious (pun intended) honor to its long lists of state 'firsts.' In recognizing the literary and artistic merit of a medium that has truly come-of-age, Vermont is the first to affirm cartoonists' international impact on social cultural and political issues. In doing so, it has also become a safe haven, if not a Mecca of sorts, for all who are passionate about the art form," noted Alex Aldrich, Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council.

The selection of Kochalka was facilitated by the Center for Cartoon Studies, also based in Vermont. Director James Sturm was enthusiastic about the ultimate choice. "Whether they are funny, philosophical, or naughty, James Kochalka brings a childlike intensity to all of his work. With his diary comic he has influenced countless cartoonists and has forever altered the landscape of cartooning," Sturm said in a press release.

Kolchalka's appointment will be celebrated with a day of events yet to be specified, but taking place all around Vermont on March 10. The details will be announced at the Center for Cartoon Studies website.

For his part, Kolchalka is quite naturally pleased with the news. "I love being a cartoonist and I love being a Vermonter. I am honored to be able to combine the two," he said in a statement. Additionally, Kolchalka documented his happy news in a new installment of his American Elf webcomic.

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