Zines: Celebrate a medium with a message at Oregon City library
Assistant Oregon City librarian Emilly Prado will be busy on Friday, Aug. 11. On that day, she will host two activities involving zines, which she describes as "self-made publications and a way for people to create a voice for themselves [to present] their own ideas and valuable stories."
Prado will lead a teen make-your-own zine workshop at 3 p.m. and then moderate a panel on zines from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Teens should come with an idea of what they want to make and by the end of the workshop will know how to produce their own zines.
Featured panelists later that day include Cameron Whitten, a long-time Portland activist; Sarah Mirk, former online editor of Bitch Media; and A'misa Chiu, a librarian, activist and organizer of the Portland Zine Symposium.
Speakers will discuss the "importance of zines, what their origins are and why they are still relevant today," Prado said.
Chiu is a Nikkei librarian, zinester, artist and community organizer. She co-curates Eyeball Burp Press, publishing weird art and comics with her artist spouse, Alex. She is a member of the Women of Color Zine Collective that publishes biannual zines focusing on the experience of women of color in Portland. This will be her third year organizing the Portland Zine Symposium, and she frequently does artists talks and zine workshops for local youth.
"I made my first year [zine] a decade ago, and was greatly inspired by the Asian-American pop culture zine-turned-magazine Giant Robot," Chiu said.
"It allowed me to represent my own experience growing up in an Asian-American community and the issues that we face, as well as broaden my perspective by being in dialogue with other Asian artists and community workers," she said.
"Zines have always had relevance; [they] simply reflect the times. Zines, tracing back to the 1930s, have documented subcultures and countercultural perspectives," Chiu said.
"The nature of zines is that they are anti-establishment; an accessible medium to document and represent the many marginalized perspectives that mainstream media may not cover. I see zines as the true grassroots media," she said.
During the zine panel, Chiu said she hopes to encourage the community to focus on diversity and equity for zinesters of color and will address the growing crisis of affordable venue space in Portland.
She also will talk about partnerships and funding sources that can support and develop existing zinesters and independent publishing.
Chiu noted that this panel is special to her as she once worked as a library assistant at the OC Library.
She added, "The librarians and staff are such amazing folks, and they are really creating an inclusive, exciting and creative culture in Oregon City."
Mirk currently is The Nib story editor, writing nonfiction comics and collaborating with a team of political cartoonists on a 10-episode animated series. She also is a Bitch Media contributing editor.
She is the author of the book "Sex from Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules," and the comics series "Oregon History Comics."
Mirk is a frequent political commentator on Oregon Public Broadcasting, has given lectures on feminism, media and activism at colleges around the country, and is an adjunct writing professor in Portland State University's graduate program in Art and Social Practice.
Importance of zines
"I've been making zines since I was a teenager. Writing and drawing is the biggest way that I document what I'm feeling, express my thoughts, and share my ideas with friends," Mirk said.
"I love making zines because they're so easy to share — receiving a little booklet in print feels like such a gift, and people love to read through them, whatever the topic."
She noted that zines are a very cheap and accessible way for people to share their ideas. "To make a zine, all you need is a piece of paper, a pen and access to a photocopier."
In today's society, media is "increasingly consolidated in the hands of just a few companies. That means our pop culture is dominated by a small number of people whose goal is to turn a profit," Mirk said. But, "it's a radical idea that you don't need anyone's permission to publish your own work and that you can make media for the sheer joy of saying something and sharing it — not to make a pile of cash at all.
"People make zines for all sorts of reasons. I've made zines about travel, turning 30 and my love of ('The X-Files') Dana Scully. People get intimidated by the idea of putting pen to paper, so my big goal with making zines is always to make all people feel more comfortable writing and drawing."
Whitten is a civic entrepreneur, citizen journalist and political figure living in Portland. He has run for political office, organized a 55-day hunger strike for housing justice, and has had leadership roles with prominent political movements, such as Occupy Portland, Right 2 Dream Too and Portland's Resistance.
Most recently, Whitten served for two years as executive director of Know Your City, an organization that aims to educate people to better know their communities and empower them to take action.
"My personal connection to zines has been through my role as executive director of Know Your City. I've worked hands-on with writers, historians, illustrators and other creatives to create zines about Portland, its history and its culture," he said.
"There's a lot of distrust in our nation right now, when it comes to mainstream media," Whitten said. "By empowering communities at the grassroots to tell their stories through mediums such as zines, we're able to foster an enriching environment for self-expression and learning."
What: Teen zine workshop and panel discussion
When: Workshop is at 3 p.m. and discussion from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11
Where: Oregon City Public Library, 606 John Adams St.
Next: An adult zine workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.