When Charissa Lucille of Wasted Ink Zine Distro started PHX Zine Fest, she envisioned a place where artists could do the work they want to do, regardless of who they are.
“I feel like sometimes people may or may not feel safe in Phoenix to say what they want or to exist in the way that they exist,” Lucille claims. “So, zines are a way that people can express themselves but also find community. And it really does bring people together to really fight against the systems that we’re experiencing in Phoenix.”
Lucille started with her first zine when she was graduating from journalism school at Arizona State University. She wanted to get away from the control and censorship of an editor and carve her own space.
“I think a lot of people are drawn to that because they don’t have to work with a publisher,” Lucille adds. “They don’t have to get accepted or rejected with their writing pieces or art pieces. It really is beautiful because there are no rules to zines.”
This is the third year for the event, which takes place this year at Unexpected Art Gallery on October 28. As it’s grown from 60 to 78 vendors, the organizers have taken measures to make it more user-friendly. This year, there will be balloons at kid-friendly tables, and they’ve partnered with a sponsor to provide water bottles. They're also putting on a scavenger hunt to help attendees make more personal connections with vendors, rather than a simple buyer-seller relationship.
According to Lucille, zines are important because they exist outside of oppressive systems, making sure everyone can have their voice heard. Lucille and her zine community follow a long trend of using zines as tools of political protest. One of Lucille’s friends tables with a zine that takes a stance against Trump, with the proceeds going to charities like Puente, a migrant justice organization, and One n Ten, which provides social and service programs to LGBT youth.
Ultimately, Lucille hopes that people are inspired to make their own zines, get involved with Wasted Ink, and “feel safe and at home with the community.”
“There’s so much that exists in Phoenix that needs to be written about, zines are a great way to do that,” Lucille says.
Liz Levine, who works with Tanline Printing from Tucson, emphasizes that the event has a strong impact on the community that it brings together. Levine tabled last year at the festival and shared Tiny Town Times, a self-published newspaper that her local screen-printing and bookmaking business creates. She enjoyed the event last year because she got the chance to meet a range of people making zines of all types.
“I got to just chat with people that I might not have otherwise met and also physically flip through and take a look at all of the different things that they were making,” Levine says. “The atmosphere was very much open and sharing and so that felt very comfortable.”
She believes the gathering shows that the platform of zines is alive, and people can get themselves out there and express what they want to express.
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“It makes a space for people that might not know where to start and the range of topics and voices that it has on display shows people that they could be a part of this as well,” she elaborates.
For Marissa Aguilar, who has been writing poetry for three years, this year's PHX Zine Fest will be her first time tabling at such an event. After seeing the application deadline on Instagram, she wrote a book of poetry in three weeks to finish in time. For Aguilar, it’s surreal to have the opportunity to put her poetry out there. She believes the self-published nature of zines makes them more tangible and accessible for everybody.
“There’s not just one genre for zines, you could really put anything that you want in it and at least some people are going to be on board for it because they’ll share similar interests,” she elaborates. “It’s just really easy to make and they come in so many different forms, and sizes, and topics.”
PHX Zine Fest. Sunday, October 28, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Unexpected Art Gallery, 734 West Polk Street; 800-985-2510; phxzinefest.com. Free Admission.