Annual Santa Rosa fest returns
April 11 is set and ready to mark the third annual Santa Rosa Zine Fest, a five-day stretch of events meant to celebrate and educate the creative masses about the practice and benefits of zines.
Self-expression is a key piece of the human experience. At the risk of over poeticizing the idea, it can be the difference between feeling like a bird on the wind versus one in a cage, which is why a growing number of people are turning to zines.
So what are zines? Essentially, they are whatever someone wants theirs to be. They’re DIY self-published magazines with no limits besides those the creator sets. As one of the event runners and co-founders of the Santa Rosa Zine Collective (SRZC), Melissa Andrade, puts it, “Zines can be informative, political, artistic, irreverent, hilarious, heartbreaking, frivolous or soul-bearing. They can be based on text, images or a combination of both.”
“The form and content are completely up to the creator,” adds Meredith Morgan, fellow creative and SRZC co-founder. “They are a means of sharing information, ideas and art free from an editor or a publisher. We want to highlight the importance of zine making as a tool for creative liberation and ultimate free speech.”
According to Morgan, the idea for the event originated between themself and Andrade in 2019 during a regular meet-up for a comic book club started by Andrade, originally called Girls with Issues. “It was a great group of femmes and thems getting together to read a variety of graphic novels and discuss them,” Morgan recalls. “So many of the folks in that club were creatives with unique voices, but they had nowhere to build community with other creators in Sonoma County.”
One goofy joke about founding a spooky zine meet-up called “HallowZine” later, and thus was the Santa Rosa Zine Fest born.
Plans for an early-2020 launch were waylaid by the pandemic. But by late-2020, SRZC had managed to partner with the Sonoma County Library and hold an all-online event, complete with panelists and artist discussions, with the help of their final collaborator, Chelsea Kurnick. Since then, the event has only grown.
“That first event was one day long and entirely online,” recounts Kurnick. “Last year, we hosted a multi-day event, bringing back online conversations and workshops, but also hosted a zine fair with 20 exhibitors in the [Coddingtown] parking lot of the Northwest branch of the library. This year, our fest is five days long, and we’ve got eight events.”
Those events will include “incredible online conversations, in-person workshops in Spanish and English, and [that the] zine fair will return with 40 exhibitors,” says Kurnick. “The growth has been pretty explosive.”
The proof of that is clear to see in SRZF’s full schedule of events. It kicks off Tuesday, and a full list can be found on the Sonoma County Library’s website. Events range from in-person workshops designed to help creatives conquer their inner critics and battle burnout to online panels relating zines with tabletop culture or as ways to boost and empower one’s community here at home.
Those latter two examples deserve special shoutout, being held on April 11 and 12 respectively, for the ways in which they demonstrate the impact zines can have. Despite the golden renaissance that tabletop roleplaying has enjoyed in recent years, it remains underrated and underappreciated for the myriad of important skills it helps cultivate. As well, community empowerment as a goal is something SRZC’s founders are intimately familiar with.
“Zines have a special place in marginalized communities as well,” says Morgan. “They are a means of sharing experiences and resources that might otherwise be censored. From the radical to the absurd, zines can do it all.”
“There are a ton of super talented young people here,” adds Kurnick, “but the cost of living is really high, and there’s not as much of an arts community as there should be, especially for people who are part of marginalized identities. To this day, many of the arts events in Sonoma County cater to and center [on] high income older adults, which also means that they are most welcoming to white, cis-het, able-bodied English-speakers. Without cool stuff to do, without an arts community that feels welcoming…there’s not much incentive to stay.”
Those who are creative, have someone close to them who is or just know how to appreciate a healthy community of local artists may register for an event (or several) and to do it sooner rather than later.
The five-day Santa Rosa Zone Fest kicks off at 4:30pm, Tuesday, April 11 with online and
in-person workshops and related events. To register for free and for more information (including locations and how to obtain a free zine marketing kit), visit sonomalibrary.org/blogs/news/zinefest2023.