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Zine Fest

By Chetla Jackson on Apr 4, 2023 12:00 AM

This year marks the 15th annual Milwaukee Zine Fest or MZF to be held on Saturday, April 22nd, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Central Library. Organized by The Bindery, and currently in partnership with the Milwaukee Public Library, the MZF is one of the longest-standing zine fests in the Midwest. Each year they feature the artwork of over one hundred talented “Zinesters” from around the country. The Bindery’s focus on diversity ensures that at least 30% of participating vendors are local, and represent various communities, such as LGBTQ and BiPOC, but everyone is welcome to enter the vendor lottery that rolls around once a year. Artists from around the country have shown interest in the MZF, traveling from as far as New York to participate.

The 2023 Fest will host vendors in the Rotunda, first floor, Rare Books Room, second floor, and the rotunda outside of the Children's Room. There will also be a table hosted by MPL to provide directional assistance to visitors, share Library resources, and provide other Library information.  Activities will include workshops, printmaking with UWM, zine swaps, an educational panel organized by The Bindery, and more. Children are also welcome to join the fun, with zine-related activities being held in the Central Library’s Children’s Room. All activities are open to the public and free of charge. [photo credit: Kelly Bolter]

What is a zine, you ask? A zine, pronounced “zeen”, is a DIY fan magazine that may cover any one particular genre or topic. Contents can be written, typed, drawn, stamped, or clipped and pasted from other media sources, such as magazines and newspapers.  Zines are a manifestation of one’s self-expression and can be created with a journalistic or narrative approach, though they are not limited to these forms. They are usually self-published in small batches that are inexpensive or free to obtain. The magazine-style publications can be bound in a variety of ways including taping, gluing, and sewing. Though one of the easiest methods of reproducing zines is to photocopy the original, then fold, cut, and staple as needed to form booklets. Many of today’s Zinesters, however, are using more than just zines to spread their message. You can find stickers, pins, buttons, posters, and t-shirts as well at the MZF. [photo credit: Milwaukee Zine Fest]

MPL’s own zine collection was initially started by a former Rare Books Room Librarian, as a special interest of hers. She purchased the collection during an MZF, with money from the Library Foundation, which provides funding for 90% of all library programming.  Each year, we add to the collection through the generous donations of several MZF vendors. The current Rare Books Room Librarian says, “We are happy to preserve these little pieces of art and Milwaukee history for future generations as part of the Rare Books collection.” A few pieces from that collection will be out on display. [photo credit: Kelly Bolter]

The creation of zines, originally called fanzines, dates back to 1930, with “The Comet” being one of the first. This fanzine was produced in May of 1930, by Raymond Arthur Palmer and the Science Correspondence Club.  The name was shortened to zines in the 1940s, when sci-fi and horror became the most popular genres, with titles such as “Horrors of the Screen”, “Journal of Frankenstein” and “Spockanalia” (for the Trekkies, of course) just to name a few. Those themes continued through the 1960s before taking a turn to the Punk zine scene in the 1970s. This was also around the time that xeroxing had become easily accessible, making reproduction fast and cheap. Punk zines were used to help create a community that would share information about this newly emerging genre of music.

In the 1980s, the Riot Grrrl movement emerged from the Punk scene and brought with it the rise of feminism, girl culture, and the cultural revolt against authoritarianism. Today, zines have become an outlet for several forms of self-expression and using your voice. Whether you choose to show support for a particular political movement, make your own political statement or just showcase some unique artwork, it’s clear that zines are the way to go.

If you’re interested in making zines, learning more about the MZF, or other ama’zine’ opportunities, the MZF will be taking place on Saturday, April 22nd, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Not interested in the MZF? The Milwaukee Public Central Library, located at 814 West Wisconsin Avenue, will still be open to the public with all services available. Stop by and see us!


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