Tucson Zine Fest (TZF) is an annual event that celebrates local artists from the Southwest. But what is a zine? The term is loosely defined as any self-published work with text and often art, traditionally photocopied and distributed by the zine-maker, or zinester. Because of the freedom afforded by self-publishing, artists can experiment with printing techniques and crafts. Subject matter isn't policed, which makes zines an ideal medium for marginalized voices writing on topics traditional publishers may avoid. A diverse array of works can be considered zines including political pamphlets, handmade books, chapbooks, perzines (personal zines), photo books, and independent comic books.
TZF is now entering its fourth year. The fest was first held in 2019 at 191 Toole and featured only twenty exhibitors. Now, the fest has grown to fill both floors of the historic Steinfeld Warehouse, with more than fifty exhibitors from Tucson and the Southwest. In 2022, there was a musical performance by local band The Tucson Children’s Choir, and food vended by Natural Mente out front.
The hard work and dedication of the TZF team, made up entirely of volunteers, has created a flourishing zine community. Since 2021, this community has come together to donate to charities like the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund and Allied Media Projects through our group creation of an omnibus zine. This year’s zinesters will collaborate to create the 2023 omnibus zine and all proceeds, after printing costs, will be donated to MediaJustice and Critical Resistance.
This sense of community also lives at Groundworks, a non-profit venue that promotes the youth-driven music and arts community in Tucson. Groundworks is currently the home of TZF’s zine library, and the location often hosts free zine workshops. The library is full of donated zine works from all around the Southwest/Pacific Northwest, and it’s a great place to experience the variety zines have to offer!
Tucson Zine Fest 2023 will be once again held at Steinfeld Gallery and hosted by Subspace on Saturday, April 15th from 10-4 pm, and will feature local exhibitors as well as zinesters from all around the Southwest. Please wear a mask! In addition, the fest will feature pre-recorded interview panels in the Subspace viewing room, a free zine-making area, a live zine reading at 12 pm, an all-day raffle, and a musical performance at 3:30 pm to close out the fest.
Even though this event has increased in size, the show retains its commitment to showcasing voices pursuing full artistic freedom. Tucson Zine Fest is proud to offer a space for artists that might otherwise be overlooked in the publishing world to relate directly to their readers.
Do you make zines? Applications for exhibitors are open until Monday, March 13th. Tucson Zine Fest will be considering artists and writers who are presenting their own original works.
Elisa Mask is a zinester, artist, and teacher. She loves sci-fi, horror, inclusive feminism, and blues jams. She is an organizer for Tucson Zine Fest.