Students from Pitzer College’s “Zines, Creativity, and Community” course hosted the Claremont Zinefest April 25 at the Claremont Packing House, showcasing a host of independent artists, cartoonists and 5C clubs and classes that work with zines.
The class is taught by Asian American Studies professor Todd Honma, and examines do-it-yourself politics through independently produced zines. A zine, an abbreviated term for fanzine or magazine, is a compilation of texts and images often away from more mainstream art circulation and focused on social causes.
Tina Wu PZ ’16, a student in the class, discussed how zines are used as tools with which to engage the community.
“The beginning of the year began with us making these personal zines that are
supposed to explore the intersection of personal and political art,” she said. “There’s
also a partnership component to our class where there are different groups that
are assigned community partners, such as the Chinatown Community for Equitable
Development in LA. So we, for this group, made a zine for them about tenant
rights in Chinatown L.A. and gentrification.”
Because more student clubs and classes have worked to incorporate zines
into their curriculum, zines are quickly growing in popularity at the 5Cs
and college campuses at large. Zines are used for a host of community engagement
and awareness-raising activities.
Pitzer Advocates and the Pitzer Art Coalition both had stands
selling and trading zines with themes related to their clubs. Pitzer Advocates brought their own zines involving sexual assault to raise
awareness on the issue and give a voice to survivors of sexual assault.
“The things about
zines is that they can be about anything; they vary in subject,” Chris Eskilson PZ ’18 said. “There are a lot
of queer zines, radical zines, race-related zines. It really depends on what
people want to write about.”
One aspect of zines that endears them to social justice activists is their simple, inexpensive production process. Creators of zines make pages using 8.5’’ by 11’’ sheets
of paper, compile them together and copy them.
Claremont Zinefest also brought in several Los Angeles-based artists who use zines and zine-like products as part of their work. Professional cartoonist Rachel
Dukes was one such artist who came to show and sell some of her independent
“For Frankie Comics [one of Dukes’ comic collections], it’s all
relatively true to life stories and situations I have living with my cat,” Dukes said. “She will do stupid stuff and I’ll
think, ‘Haha, that’s funny. Now how
can I turn that into a comic?’ A lot of my own personal comics come directly from my life.”
Dukes, whose work can be found on mixtapecomics.com, also gave customers insight on the type of work
she does as a professional comic artist. When she does work for publishers, she creates visuals to match a script that is given to her.
More than the published work, though, Riki Robinson PZ ’18 said she was drawn to the subversive nature of zines.
“Zine culture is really interesting,” Robinson said. “A lot of zines are anti-something: anti-capitalism, anti-consumerism, anti-racism. They are really underground; there are no rules and no censorship.”