The zine community in Chicago is unquestionably thriving. Every art student and punk kid in the city with access to a copier seems to have their own zine. Whether it’s a stapled-together, simple little black and white number or a fully illustrated graphic novel, the accessibility and freedom of content inherent in the zine format has made it quite a popular art form recently. This popularity is nowhere more apparent than at the annual Chicago Zine Fest, which took place this Friday and Saturday at Columbia College.
In its fourth year running, the fest has managed to gain a massive cult following of dirty hipsters and super cute lesbians. This time around there were three floors of a Columbia building dedicated to the event, each packed, end-to-end, with over 200 zine-covered tables. The sheer amount of stuff at this place was crazy: zines, posters, stickers, patches and pins. There were established artists selling their hardcover books, and broke art students giving away flimsy little pamphlets about this or that marginalized social group. People from all over the country come to this event to sell and trade their wares, hobnob with fellow zinesters about the community, and collaborate on future projects. It’s the locus of tons of creative energy and new media.
I was only able to go to the second day of Zine Fest (Saturday, March 9), but nevertheless was impressed by the scope of the event. Besides vendors, there were panels, workshops and readings, and even a bake sale to raise money for the future of the fest. The general political bent of the zine community was apparent through panel titles such as “Writing about Health, Disability, and Accessibility in Zines,” and through the many feminist and queer publications like Motor Kitty City. Besides these, there were zines about gardening, sex, food, music, having really good roommates, growing up in the city, and just about anything else you can think of.
This was the second year in a row I had been to the Zine Fest, and I was just as impressed this time as the last. For being run by a young, volunteer-based outfit, this event has been well attended and organized on both occasions. Despite the space being uncomfortably packed with people, there never seemed to be the slightest of tiffs.
And how could there be, with so much awesome stuff in one place? I came away with a snarky feminist zine, some cute pins, a free little smut pamphlet, and some names of artists that caught my eye and require some further Googling. With most things under ten dollars, it’s pretty easy to come away with plenty of souvenirs for you and your buddies.
If you missed Zine Fest this year, I’m sorry. Go next year. I promise it’ll be worth your time.