Claremont Zinefest Presents Student Zines, Opens to Greater DIY Community

Claremont will get a glimpse into the unique, ever-changing world of self-expression in the form of home-published, toner-laden pamphlets called “zines,” full of a diverse collection of materials that include recipes, political manifestos, creative stories, and much more. Zinesters from the greater Los Angeles area and Southern California are coming to Claremont Zinefest tomorrow, April 19 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. to showcase their creative wares and appreciate the work of their fellow artists.   

Claremont Zinefest is an event put together by Pitzer College’s Asian American and Queer Zines class. The class’s event, with festival submissions open to the 5Cs and public at large, is designed to engage and educate the greater community. 

Elise Berendt SC ’17, head of the Tables Committee for the event, said that the goal of Zinefest is to “introduce more students to
the zine culture and DIY [do-it-yourself] culture and to showcase the different kinds of artists
that are involved in this around Los Angeles.” 

Zines normally tackle issues and topics that are too risqué, taboo, or controversial for the mainstream media in a raw and unconventional way. Anyone in the world can create a zine; all they need are ideas and the most minimal materials. These are about the only generalizations that might be able to be made about zines, because they can vary in almost every other respect. A zine can be almost anything.

Each student in the sponsoring class was assigned to a different
committee to help put on the event. They are enlisting the zine artists, navigating the logistical challenges, and advertising and producing the Zinefest on their

“That’s sort of in line with do-it-yourself, or DIY, culture, which
is the basis of the zine community, which is that you really express yourself
using whatever means you want, and it’s up to you to sort of channel your
creativity into any sort of format,” Berendt said. 

Keanan Gottlieb PZ ’17, who is in charge of the finances for Zinefest,
came across the class because of Pitzer’s social responsibility requirement,
but became seriously interested when he found out what was covered in
the class.

“The course description talked about race, gender, class, and sexuality
in talking about zines and in creating zines and DIY culture, which was
something that I want to get more involved with anyway,” Gottlieb said. 

One of the highlights of the class for him was the personal zine, or
per-zine, assignment. 

“That assignment was basically that we make a 10-page [zine],” Gottlieb said. “Mine reflected
on topics of race, gender, class, and sexuality, but then I also included some
of my personal interests. I put a recipe in mine,
and I included song lyrics that had to do with gender and sexuality and some
scientific facts and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun being able to express
that and being able to read everyone else’s.”

Besides producing the Zinefest, the Asian American and Queer Zines class
explores the Asian American and queer experiences through zines and DIY
culture. The course was developed by Pitzer professor Todd Honma at the
suggestion of the chair of the Intercollegiate Department of Asian American

“One of the things about Asian American studies at the Claremont
Colleges is that they place a lot of importance on community engagement, and
since zine culture is all about participatory engagement within different zine
communities and zine networks, it fit together well,” Honma said.
“Teaching a class on zines that also has a strong community engagement

Honma received a Mellon Art and Environment Grant from Pitzer this
semester to put toward the class. He was able to bring in Eric Nakamura, a
former DIY zine publisher and now business owner, as a community collaborator
for the course. 

Nakamura started publishing the black-and-white zine Giant Robot from
his parents’ house, which then turned into a full-fledged magazine. After
16 years of magazine and zine production, Nakamura stopped publishing in
2011 and currently owns a shop and art gallery in West LA, providing
him with a wealth of experience in the DIY art community. 

His zine and magazine centered on Asian and Asian American popular
culture and art. 

“Basically, I interviewed filmmakers, bands, political leaders—you name
it, and it was part of the magazine,” Nakamura said.

While zines can tackle cultural topics, they are also an avenue into personal, artistic expression: platforms for ideas to be spread in an authentic
way, free from any creative constraints.

“Honestly, I think zines can kind of be whatever you want them to
be,” said Sachi Watase PZ ’17, a member of the Zinefest Logistics

Watase counts the class among her favorites and loves that it gives her
access to understanding different types of art media, as well as the freedom it
has afforded her to explore new media on her own.

Tables with zines, music, and free Zinefest merchandise will be showcased at local Claremont businesses from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, April 19 in the Claremont Village’s Packing House.

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