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'It’s really community-based': Inaugural zine fest celebrates art and accessibility

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Tasso Hartzog, Rosie Scott-Benson, Logan Dosher and Sophie Lowry hosts a table at the Zine Fest in Carrboro, N.C. on Sunday, April 07, 2024. Their table featured a variety of different art from patches and prints to earrings and balaclavas.

Handwritten yard signs advertising “CHBORO ZINE FEST” were posted around Carrboro Town Commons on Sunday. 

The inaugural Chapel Hill/Carrboro Zine and Printed Matter Festival, sponsored by The ArtsCenter of Carrboro, brought together approximately 70 vendors, mostly from around the Triangle and North Carolina. 

Attendees browsed tables that displayed zines, art prints, stickers and more. They could also make their own zines at tables manned by volunteers and the artist collective the CoLab Raleigh.  They could even get tote bags or T-shirts screen printed.

SamLevi Middleton-Sizemore, founder of the Chapelboro Zinefest, said they were inspired to organize the festival after they started attending other zine festivals and art markets regularly and noticed differences in how the festivals were planned.  

“As someone who is disabled and cares a lot about access, I wanted that to be at the center of the organizing — beyond the art being at the center of it all,” they said.  

Marty Rogers, co-organizer of the festival, said because they had negative experiences at art markets in the past, being on the other side has been empowering. 

“I really just appreciate the emphasis on access and care that SamLevi has really led with,” they said. “Because I think it’s something that can always be improved on in the community and I think it’s really important to lead with care and access. And of course we’re all there for the art, but even more so, I feel like it’s about community.” 

A big priority for the festival was to make everything free, Rogers and Middleton-Sizemore said. There were no tabling fees for artists. Additionally, they offered free snacks to artists and free masks to everyone visiting the event. 

Accessibility and community were major commitments for the organizers of the festival, but they are also some of the reasons why people enjoy making and reading zines, too.

“I think they’re just a really awesome way to express yourself that’s really accessible,” Middleton-Sizemore said. “By accessible in this case, I mean it takes almost no materials and no money to make a zine.” 

Adriana Torres, an artist from Lexington, N.C., said she was drawn to making zines because they are cheap and easy to make — and they can be about anything.

Torres started by making zines about politics, and now she said her artwork is a way for her to preserve childhood memories.

“I’m trying to expand my work into more personal things, focus on my culture and my background,” she said. “I have a couple things coming up that are related to being Mexican American and just having immigrant parents, because there’s not a whole lot of that in the zine community, so I kind of also just want to showcase that.” 

For Yumeng Fu, an illustrator and comic artist based in Cary, the event was her first time tabling at an art market.

Art is a way for her to express herself, but also a way to share her ideas with others, Fu said. Events like the Chapelboro Zinefest, she said, are good opportunities for her to meet other artists and learn from them. 

After her first zine festival, Torres said she felt inspired by the other artists.

“It’s really community-based — just to see everyone interact with each other,” she said. “I met lots of cool people during that event, and I was like 'Man, I kind of want to keep seeing these people and work with them.'” 

Beyond connecting artists with other artists, the zine festival also allowed attendees to interact directly with artists and hear about their work. 

“I really like talking to everybody and seeing their stories,” Maddie Priebe, an attendee,said. 

Lore Morton said that events like this are important in showcasing a community of people finding alternative ways to support themselves through their art and creativity. 

“I think zines are really, really important right now,” she said. “The publishing industry is really hard for a lot of people to break into, even indie publishing. So showing people that there are unique ways to have their work seen and appreciated, and that there are people willing to support them directly is so important.”

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@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com