In Arts & Entertainment

The Milwaukee zine scene.

Milwaukee Zine Fest prepares for seventh "chapter"

It's the seventh year for Milwaukee Zine Fest which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Falcon Bowl, 801 E. Clarke St.

A "zine" refers to a self-published, handmade periodical that is usually reproduced and distributed for free or a nominal fee. Zines usually have a small circulation, appeal to a niche group and are just as likely to be handwritten as created via computer.

Often a zine includes hand-drawn art, cartoons and anything else the author wants to include – as long as it's easily reproducible. In Milwaukee, Fischberger's, 2445 N. Holton St., and People's Books Cooperative, 804 E. Center St., stock a fair share of zines.

During Zine Fest, people buy, sell and trade zines. Most zines sell for $5 or less. Screen-printed posters, T-shirts, stickers, buttons and other DIY items are also for sale.

This year, there will be a variety of new events happening throughout the week including a kids' zine making event and reading from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Jazz Gallery, 926 E. Center St.

An adult zine reading will take place on Friday, Nov. 7 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the same space.

Started in 2008 by Milwaukee zinester Jessica Bublitz, Milwaukee Zine Fest is organized collectively. Christopher Wilde is another founder and a current organizer of Milwaukee Zine Fest. He also helps run the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) along with Milo Miller, local feminist and "sex-positive zinester" Miss Nico and queer librarians and academics from around the world.

OnMilwaukee.com recently chatted with Wilde and asked him five questions about Milwaukee Zine Fest 2014.

OnMilwaukee.com: What's new at Zine Fest this year?

Chris Wilde: We are pleased to announce that through the generosity of the Riverwest Artists Association, we are able to use the Jazz Gallery on Center Street for the entire week before and including the day of Zine Fest. Because of this unique opportunity we are able to do several more days of programming and provide a wider variety of events throughout the lead up to the main day of tabling.

Jazz Gallery is a unique space in its regular use so we were able to develop programming much more outside the realm of traditional Zine Fest events. The Zinester Art Show, running the entire week, is a slightly different take on an Art Show concept we developed at QZAP in the late 2000s, namely that zine makers are often artists in other mediums so why not let different aspects of that creativity show through?

For the first time we have a Zine Reading event by Milwaukee youth. Through partnering with a youth zine making group that was active this summer, we are helping to foster the continuation of zine culture and create more events that zinesters – some of whom have been around long enough to become parents – can enjoy with their kids.

OMC: How many tables of zinesters will there be this year?

CW: We will be packing in 40 tablers this year, comparable to the past several years. So many of our favorite zine makers and artists will be back again, such as John Porcellino of "King Cat Comics," Susan Simensky Bietila will be representing "World War 3 Illustrated," local favorite Ethan Krause who does "The Famous Hairdos of Popular Music" and Chicago favorites Junk Drawer and Jonas of Cheer "The Eff Up" will be there too along with some of the Chicago Zine Fest organizer crew.

One of the most highly anticipated zines to be released at MZF will be Basements and Living Rooms #5. It's edited by one of the Fest organizers, Shannon, and features stories and photos of punk rock shows. She is also instrumental in helping us create our MZF 2014 t-shirts which will be available for purchase at the main tabling event Saturday. Each t-shirt is hand silk screened by all the organizers, a tradition dating back several years.

OMC: Are zines more or less popular than they were, say, five years ago?

CW: There's been an interesting uptick in curiosity about and interest in zines as a genre. The New York Times has published several articles over the past few years highlighting either specific zines or focusing on sub genres like queer zines. However, the focus is on print magazines that are much more slick and produced in high volume and often sold through exclusive deals. Then the angle becomes that these publications represent a revival or resurgence of zine culture when honestly they have little connection to small scale, independently published zine titles.

Zines also represent a more calm and measured way to consume and create media. The Internet makes it easier to discover zine culture and specific titles but nothing takes the place of being able to unplug and bury your head in a zine for a good read that isn't a screen glowing back at you.

OMC: What's up with your venture, the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP)?

CW: This has been a busy year for QZAP so far. Our new digital archive is up and running after several months of development to increase functionality, search capability, and further integrate key word tagging. Over the summer, we launched the first Summer Residency series that brought researchers from around the world here to Milwaukee to utilize the physical zine collection and other resources available. We are working to produce a collaborative zine about the entire summer but it won't be ready in time for the Fest. QZAP will, of course, be tabling and this time of year is always special because our birthday is at the beginning of November. This year QZAP goes to 11! Years old, that is. To celebrate, we are kicking off a couple of fund raising programs, including Mofemmeber, a way to collect pledges for reading queer zines.

OMC: Any long term goals for Zine Fest?

CW: We are committed to the concept of Milwaukee Zine Fest being small and mighty. It would be nice to have a larger space for more tables but Milwaukee lacks affordable venues that provide enough tables and chairs and facilities for this type of event. We also receive a great deal of positive feedback from tablers and Fest goers in general that the Falcon Bowl space is charming and cozy with great amenities nearby. Riverwest feels like the best overall fit and helps to keep MZF sustainable as well as contribute positively to the neighborhood.


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