Richmond Zine Fest embraces diversity, welcomes newcomers

Photo by Elizabeth Humphreys

Andrew Ringle
Contributing Writer

Starting with a series of informative lectures and ending with an exhibition of more than 100 artists, the 12th annual Richmond Zine Fest promoted an environment embracing zine-makers of all backgrounds and welcoming newbies to the alternative artform.

Held at the Richmond Public Library, the festival began Friday with a workshop on the safe and proper administration of Narcan, a drug used to block the effects of opioids and to treat overdoses. The day continued with workshops from zine artists including Alison Thompson, Karlena Sakas and Dash Shaw.

“Zine Fest is more than just a capitalist exchange of goods,” said Richmond Zine Fest co-organizer Celina Nicole. “It’s about being part of a community and creating an increase of education.”

Nicole started organizing the festival in its third year after attending the first year and tabling at the following event. Her work includes “Mean Girl,” “I Hate Dating,” “Instaku” and “Nikki Minaj Haiku Zine.”

“The librarians are so incredibly supportive of Zine Fest,” Nicole said.

The event was previously held at Diversity Richmond, but moving to the downtown public library has allowed organizers to expand programs and attract larger audiences.

“A library is all about providing people with access to information,” Nicole said. “So there’s really no better place for supporting independent publishing and the sharing of information.”

Friday’s workshops ended with a presentation from cartoonist Ron Regé Jr., who gave a lecture on the esoteric history of Wonder Woman, focusing on the heroine’s mythological costume design.

Visiting Richmond from his home in Los Angeles, the artist opened his newest exhibition at The Anderson gallery later on Friday. “The Word of First Thought” showcases Regé’s zines and independent comics, which closely analyze the lesser-known history of religion and spirituality.

Regé has been making zines since the early 1990s. He said he hasn’t stopped creating since. He learned about the artform while attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

“As soon as I figured out that I could make these things, I got a job at a Xerox shop,” Regé said. “Before the internet, zine-makers shared a very expansive underground culture. We did not give a shit about whether or not straight people in the normal world knew if we existed. It wasn’t about getting popular.”

At twenty years old, Regé was sharing his work with artists all over the world, including France and Australia. The things he saw were, at the time, taboo subjects, including graphic violence and sexuality.

“Punk and underground culture, especially queer culture, have always been a central aspect of zine festivals,” Regé said. “People might not be that psyched about it, but artists have the freedom to express it. If you have some kind of negative interests or desires, putting it into artwork is the best expression.”

On Saturday, artists of all backgrounds presented their work to audiences. While guests had the option to buy zines for prices as low as one dollar, many zine-makers traded work amongst themselves.

“Zines are way more about sharing ideas than they are about making money,” said Richmond Zine Fest co-organizer Brian Baynes. “While everyone is here selling things, it’s not uncommon to find trading happening as well.”

Baynes is the artist behind several zines including “Cool Hiss,” “Presenting the Byrd Theatre” — which showcases the history of the Carytown establishment — and “Crunch: A Taco Bell Fanzine.”

Richmond artist Cree Renee was among many displaying artwork. For her first time tabling at a zine festival, Renee showcased colorful prints and a stack of her most recent zines.

“Making zines is a way to express yourself, by yourself, without anyone else’s help,” Renee said. “It’s great that it’s being held at a library, because it’s really important for these kind of events to be accessible to everyone.”

For more information on the Richmond Zine Fest, including an archive of previous festivals, visit

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