Categorized | Arts & Culture, Featured

Growing the mid-Michigan zine community

Growing up in the information age, many of us in our 20s can’t imagine a world without the Internet as a place to write about the music we like, our social views or our cultural interests.

Hanging from the ceiling of the Michigan State University’s Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH) LookOut! Gallery in Snyder-Phillips hall is the original personal blog—the zine.RCAH Zines

Entry Points: An Incomplete Guide to Zines [Then & Now] showcases these individually produced magazines can include everything from fan fiction, music reviews, art, politics or social commentary and are all handed out by the person that created them.

Zines are independently produced and self-published publications focused on whatever the writer is interested in. Zines are usually given away or sold directly from the producer.

Ethan Tate, RCAH senior, helped create the exhibit. He said zines are a way to get your work and interests into printed form so you can distribute it to others.

“It’s a very accessible medium and it’s not highbrow at all—the whole point of it is to make it about whatever you want to,” Tate said. “For that weird passion you have, you can write about it or draw pictures about it, make copies of it and share it with people in a really cool way.”

Zine shelf

Tate built the exhibit with MSU Librarian Joshua Barton, who drew zines from the MSU Library’s special collection. Barton said his interest in zines came from capturing the marginalized voices that mainstream media would gloss over.

“We have zines dating back to the ’70s—UK punk, the genesis of punk—and then some fanzines going back to the 30s with science fiction, where zines all emerged from,” Barton said. “It’s part of the popular culture and radicalism emphasis that we put on collecting in the special collections library.”

Barton said the MSU Library has been collecting zines for a while and has a rather large collection compared to other universities. Most of the zines in the exhibit were drawn from the special collections library, but Barton said about a quarter are from Tate’s personal collection and some that Tate made himself.

Tate said he has been making zines for about two years. He said started out making photo zines, which are devoid of zine’s usual text, when he discovered them online.

“A lot of photographers that I liked were making zines for their photographs and I thought that was really cool,” Tate said. “But the first real zine I did that I made actual copies of and distributed was a zine showcasing the work of greater Lansing artists.”

It was Tate’s involvement with producing zines that connected him to Barton. However, the Entry Points exhibit is just leading up to something bigger—the Mid Michigan Zine Fair that Barton, Tate and a group of other zinesters are organizing at the end of this month.

“We’re using the same model as most zine fests, so the main thing is that there’s a bunch of zinesters with tables, and they have all their works out. You stroll around and you can go look through everyone’s work and trade zines with them or buy their zines,” Tate said.

“You get to see everyone’s weird quirks and talk to them about it.”

Michigan Zines

This direct contact is something that Barton said is even more important now that almost all media has moved online.

“Zines are never going to change; it’s completely unmediated,” Barton said. “It’s you and a piece of paper and some words on that page, that have been handed directly to you probably by the person that made them because that’s how direct zines are—how personal they are. They elicit an aspect of human communication that is lost in the Internet.”

In the end, Barton and Tate are organizing events like these to create a stronger zine community in the Lansing area.

“Doing things like the zine fair are a way to cultivate the community that’s here, because we really see the benefit to that and the power to it,” Tate said. “It gives a lot of people a voice that they wouldn’t normally have to share their stories and connect to others.”

Entry Points: An Incomplete Guide to Zines [Then + Now] is at the LookOut! Gallery until October 26. The Mid Michigan Zine Fair is taking place on October 26 from 12 to 6 p.m. at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.

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