If Alyson del Pino (C' 21) hadn’t found refuge from the cold in Kelly Writers House (KWH) while touring Penn’s campus four years ago, she probably wouldn’t ended up at Penn. Nor would she have become the co–curator of its Zine Library. Nor would she have mastered the rare art of letterpress printing.
Originally from Miami, Alyson recounts her first visit—of what would become many—to the House. “I walked in and they had just made cookies in the kitchen and it smelled like cookies in the House … at that moment I was like, wow, I love this space and I want to come to campus just for this space.”
And that she did. “I showed up to the Writer’s House at the beginning of freshman year and I was like, 'I heard you guys have jobs, can I have a job?'” With a knack for stumbling upon some of Penn’s most hidden gems, Alyson suddenly found herself in the role of Letterpress Assistant for the Robinson Press, a printing press tucked away in the Fischer Fine Arts Library Basement. While there, Alyson was responsible for designing and creating the Writer’s House broadside posters used to advertise and memorialize their events. She recounts that the process to print these posters was no small feat, involving the meticulous arrangement and inking of individual metal–type to be pressed onto the paper.
From this chance role, Alyson found her passion for her concentrations in English—Material Texts and Digital Humanities—which she explains has allowed her "to make art and think about it constantly in complex ways. Her passion for art and material culture was recognized by Maya Simone, the founder of the KWH's Zine Library, who invited Alyson to get involved in curating and displaying the dozens of zines that had been piling up in the house. Over the past several years now, Alyson has dedicated her time to making these zines accessible to the public. “You don’t have to just stumble upon it at the Writer’s House and find zines through random piles. Now there’s a whole bookshelf and we’re working on this project to archive and organize them...we’re working on a website.”
As the current Zine Library co–curator, Alyson is now responsible for purchasing zines for the growing collection, hosting workshops and funding student zines. When it came to forming the current collection, Alyson explains, “in the beginning, we were just buying things that we loved and we didn’t have a real plan,” but more recently Alyson and co–curator Quinn Gruber have taken a more intentional approach, “we definitely source a lot of them from the Philly community, from Philly Zinefests. It’s aspiring to be a community–space even if it’s mostly Penn–affiliated right now.”
In her other endeavors to explore the world through art, Alyson received a Creative Ventures Capital Grant through KWH to write "The Sun Inside: a Local’s Subjective Guide to the Real Feel of Miami’s Art Museums." She notes that Miami is a guiding focus in her study and creation of art—her own artistic pursuits, from Zines to classic illustration to collage, all circle back to her love for her hometown and desire to understand it culturally, historically and ecologically.
Yet this doesn't take away from the love she feels for her second home. “I think that the Writer’s House as a space is really, really nurturing. If you show up there with consistent enthusiasm...if you show a willingness to do what you love...they really just try to give you what they can in opportunities to make that happen for you even if you’re not aware of everything that you could do.”