When I first arrive at 1714 North Mascher Street, I have no idea how to get to my final destination. Is it a residential house? A block party? A gallery? I can hear bass thumping around the block, but a large, concrete wall prevents me from getting to the source. After walking around the block, I eventually find a driveway filled with people mulling around. It leads into a secluded space in the middle of Kensington, fueled by neighboring Fishtown's population of artists.
An old warehouse with exposed brick walls and massive open doors sets the tone for the Monstera’s Art and Zine Fair on Nov. 5. It looks straight out of a Pinterest post for a rustic, farmhouse wedding. Tables are set up with artists presenting their wares of zines, posters, apparel, and patches. The zine is a form of small production print magazine; it's often homemade and filled with photos, drawings, poems, and written work. Although the focus of the festival is zines, there are other crafts on display including ceramics, essential oils, and apparel. Each vendor has their own aesthetic.
One vendor's booth smells, and it smells wonderful: sultry and fragrant. She's burning a stick—an actual piece of wood. She tells me that she’s burning it because the space smelled “dank” when she walked in. Like other crafts around the festival, there's more to the stick that meets the eye.
DJs on site soundtrack the warehouse with electric beats and a blend of genres.The music reflects the crowd: a mixture of styles, with an alternative edge. When you walk around the festival, it’s apparent that everyone has on an “outfit” for this event. My simple jeans and sweatshirt uniform is surrounded by full–length coats, dark lipstick and Warby Parker glasses. There's even a vintage store on the property; it sells everything from a Harley Davidson leather vest to a jean jacket with the waistband cut off. I listen to a couple gush over a white jacket with two marijuana leaves stamped on its back.
Food and drink vendors are also on site. It’s hard to miss the fact that everyone is carrying around Tito’s cocktails and sipping on Rival Bros coffee. There’s a table selling Funky Fresh kombucha — a crowd favorite. There’s also a food cart, Kung Fu Hoagies, selling vegan and vegetarian hoagies.
I love the Monstera festival. But at times I’m overwhelmed by the hidden elements of the space, including what appears to be some type of violated monument. It features a curved piece of marble on the ground that has "America" etched into it, but the ‘A’ and the ‘I’ are cut out along with other squares of marble. I find that everywhere I look, there's something just as intricate and innovative.
I also enjoy talking to the artists. I speak to one photographer about an image that he created by placing the camera above his head and just shooting. He captured an image of a bustling train station with commuters getting on and off an NJ Transit train. The result is a combination of fluidity and structure, with graphic lines and blurred movement. I speak to another artist who goes by the name Mod Shity who creates T–shirts using Sharpie. He hand draws band images onto shirts to create one–of–a–kind pieces. The only downside to these, apparently, is that he recommends not washing them.
Days after the fair, the event seems to carry on. The Facebook page is still active—filled with photos, a lost and found, and raffle winners. This continuation means that I never have to stop living through the fair. I'm not mad about it.