Grand Rapids Zine Fest is entering it’s third year. Organizers Sara Chittenden and Drew Damron will hold this year's event at Kendall’s Fed Galleries, becoming part of the programming during DAAC's month long gallery residency.

If you're unfamiliar, a zine (pronounced "zeen")—short for "magazine" or "fanzine", can be a radiantly powerful thing: a defiant, self-published gesture of anarchy or rebellion or perhaps a simple collection of sincere or random thoughts. Zines can be acerbic, informative, they can be self-help guides, whimsical ponderings, confessions, jokes. They can provide a voice to the marginalized, the disaffected and the unseen. Zines can really be anything at all.

"I love zines because they allow anybody to create publications about anything they want without having to wait for publishing companies to deem your project worthy of being produced," explains Damron. “Anyone can make their own comic, publish their own research papers, and share whatever experiences, stories, and skills that they want to.” 

Free from the monetary and content restrictions of most publications, zines can indeed become an important resource for the most resource-less and oppressed amongst us. As circulation is generally small and rarely motivated by profit, authors are free to express themselves in a way most traditional publishers aren't interested in. Ownership of zine content is usually unofficial and generally sharing is encouraged.

“There's truly a zine for everyone, because zines can be made by everyone. I particularly love perzines (non-fiction personal narrative zines) because they are so intimate. I also love that zine communities tend to be very accepting and transparent, which is something we strive to create at GR Zine Fest,” says Chittenden.

Zine’s have the propensity to change our perceptions and broaden our spectrum of experience in a way that most mass produced publications simply cannot. There is a candor and an authenticity to many of these little packages of insight, an energetic potential for revolution. Zines are often a firsthand glimpse into the lives of people we might have no real frame of reference for, or forrays into subjects we might find difficult to discuss with our peers. For those in need of guidance or simply a kindred spirit, zines can provide a special kind of solace.

“I think it is really important and powerful to teach these skills to kids and teenagers. The stories that make up our culture often come from the same perspective, which can make life pretty difficult for someone like a queer teenager who, because there aren't any stories about them, don't know what kind of ways they can live their life," says Damron. "Growing up would be less frightening if they had a multitude of stories about other queer teenagers—made by queer teenagers—available to them."

Damron and Chittenden recommend locally published The Bandit Zine and King Cat by John Porcellino amongst many many others. With most zines ranging in price from between $1 – $5 and a number of important organizations tabling this year, including the Grand Rapids chapter of Black Lives Matter, this year's GR Zine Fest will surely provide you with an opportunity to find your own favorite zines, make connections with some important movements within your community, and maybe even provide you with the necessary inspiration to create your own publication.

Grand Rapids Zine Fest takes place at Kendall’s Fed Gallery, 17 Pearl St. NW. It is free to attend and runs from Noon – 6 p.m. on July 25th. Visit grzinefest.wordpress.com or Facebook for further information.

Photos: Both photos above by Anna Gustafson of GR Zine Fest 2014. Listing image is the 2015 GR Zine Fest Poster, designed by Francie VanHoven.

By Emma Higgins on