Katherine Noble, Contributing Writer
Outside, it was just another quiet fall Saturday. But inside the Richmond Public Library, there was a clamorous and cheerful commotion of people of all ages around tables stacked with prints, stickers, patches, and of course, zines.
This was the two-day Richmond Zine Fest that took place on Friday and Saturday. The event began in 2007 and was initially a small gathering outside the Firehouse Theatre and the Camel.
The event celebrated zines, which are magazine-style independent publications, and focused on supporting LGBTQ people and communities of color.
“As a queer Afro-Latinx who makes zines, I can say with certainty that zines provide a safe space to share pieces of ourselves and our lives, thoughts, traumas and wishes that would be chewed up and digested differently if we just put them online,” said event organizer Celina Williams.
In 2016, the program’s current organizers — Williams and Brian Baynes — moved it to the Richmond Public Library where the event now covers the upstairs foyer, art gallery and the entirety of the downstairs.
Williams, a 2008 VCU alumna, attended the very first Zine Fest while still in school. She had previously made zines but wasn’t aware of the potential the activity held until she attended the festival. They can cover anything, from personal stories to gardening tips, to comics, and are usually photocopied and made in very small runs.
Williams also spoke on the community-building power of zines.
“We’re here to uplift in a way that is honest and inclusive, not to be fake or positive-vibes only,” Williams said. “But to show what can happen when we’re ready to really see and appreciate each other and the connections can grow from there.”
After her first taste, Williams was hooked. The very next year she tabled at the event, and by the third year, she volunteered as an organizer.
“As a queer Afro-Latinx who makes zines, I can say with certainty that zines provide a safe space to share pieces of ourselves and our lives, thoughts, traumas and wishes that would be chewed up and digested differently if we just put them online.” —Celina Williams
Now, she runs the event with Baynes.
“As the internet is full of voices and policed by corporate and government interests, zines are one area where we don’t have to worry about our existences being up for debate,” Williams said. “We take the time to make something and we get to share it with people who want to connect.”
She emphasized the significance of zines, specifically how they serve as an outlet for creative expression.
“I want everyone to be seen and valued for exactly where they are at with their writing, art, etc. at this point in time,” Williams said.
Kamille Jackson, a 2014 alum of VCU’s communication arts program, is one of the artists behind Take it Slow Press, her business described as “being rooted in the pursuit of an unhurried and uninhibited approach to their art practices.”
Jackson became interested in zines soon after graduating and saw it as a way to continue making art after school, and an opportunity to explore her practice and potential.
Jackson views zines as different from magazines because they’re self-published. This hands-on, DIY style nurtures independent makers, who then provide a product that is accessible to a wide range of people, she said.
“Artists and designers can use whatever they have access to when it comes to printing and materials,” Jackson said. “It feels immediate, and I think that that’s really healthy and necessary for you to upkeep your own mode of creating — to stay inspired.”