Last week, Street went to the Monstera's Art + Zine Fair and experienced a diverse range of art vendors peddling zines, ceramics, and apparel. You may have also heard of the Philly Zine Fest 2017 or the NY Art Book Fair, but still maybe aren't sure what a zine is and why it exists. If so, this article is for you.

Zine, pronounced as zeen and short for magazine, is commonly a self–published work of texts and images with a small circulation. Focusing more on expressing the views of the editor and reaching the audience than earning profits, zines have been an important medium of communication in the art world, often covering topics like politics, feminism, photography, and other areas of interest and niches within them. Because of the nature of its topics, aesthetics, and distribution strategies, zines tend to be experimental and non–mainstream, yet they're effective in creating intimate and subcultural communities of like–minded people.

Penn and the city of Philadelphia have many resources when it comes to self–publications. For example, Common Press located at the basement of Fisher Fine Arts Library is a letterpress printing studio that provides a mixed media environment for students to produce images and collaborate with artists, writers, and printmakers. Not sure how to print by yourself using this facility or simply want to learn more about printmaking? Next semester there are two courses on these topics being offered through the Fine Arts department. FNAR 221: “Histories of Print: Reimagining the Archive” will be taught at Common Press and will examine the history of letterpress printing and its relationship with innovation and power. FNAR 245: “Book and Publication Design” will examine the theory and practice of designing multi–page publications and allow students to design books that focus on typography, layout, production methods, and binding.

If you’re looking for a bookshop that’s dedicated to artists’ books and independent art publications, look no further than Ulises, located in Fishtown at 31 East Columbia Ave. As a bookshop and curatorial platform, Ulises utilizes the model of a quarterly periodical and invites contributors to present artworks, workshops, publications, and lectures under a given theme for each curatorial season. Another great resource for zine lovers in the city is The Soapbox, a nonprofit community print shop, book, and zine–making center and library of 2000 handmade publications. Located in West Philly at 4700 Kingsessing Ave., The Soapbox regularly hosts workshops, readings, printing events, and art exhibitions to foster the creative and political voices of the community and empower people to disseminate information and creativity.


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