a personal blog for Jamey Alea

ZineFest 2023 & the Post-Covid AU

June 15, 2023 Jamey Alea 0 Comments

This past weekend was ZineFest 2023, co-hosted downtown by Book Arts and Just Buffalo Literary Center, and I’m very pleased to report that it was a great success! This was an event that was quite a long time in the making. The idea for it was born nearly a year ago, at last year’s BookFest. Just Buffalo coordinator Robin and I got chatting about how much we missed the Sugar City Zine Fair and how it was such a bummer that our city didn’t have an active zine or small press event running anymore. Sometimes all it takes is one conversation to set something in motion — and now ZineFest is back! 

Actually, this was technically the first annual ZineFest in its new iteration, but it was a spiritual successor to the Sugar City Zine Fair, linked directly to it through, well, me! I used to be the zine librarian at Sugar City and I organized the fair for the last few years that we did it, ending in 2018. (We intended to take just one year off in 2019 and then, well… you know.) And I do very much think that the spirit of Sugar City was still alive in the new event! We had Gutter Pop Comics as a sponsor, just like we used to for the old fair. Sugar City’s zine library was on display for the first time since we had to move out of our old venue, and people were in there chilling and reading zines all day! Lots of kids and families attended too, which was always one of my very favorite things about Sugar City, the way it exposed little ones to art and music. 

Of course, it’s the artists and vendors who really make up a zine fair. We hosted 40 local artists (or local-ish, since we had a few people come in from Rochester and Toronto, which is very cool!) The vibes at the event itself were immaculate. At every step of the planning process, it was energizing to hear that folks were excited about having the fair back. It really warmed my heart to see so many artists coming together and getting to interact with each other’s art. Zine trading might be my single favorite thing about zine culture, and I got to do a ton of trades—not a single person who I asked if they were interested in a trade said no! And even better, I got to watch other people trading with each other and reading and talking about each other’s zines! It was wonderful!

I only bought ONE of these! The rest were from trades!

Now that I’ve talked a bit about the fair itself, I hope you can indulge me as I wax a little philosophical about my community. 

Coincidentally, the same morning of ZineFest was my first visit to the Healing Grounds Co-op, a new cafe in my neighborhood which just opened in the space where my favorite coffee shop ever, Sweetness 7, used to be. The Healing Grounds is worker-owned, which is awesome, and I’ve seen those folks hard at work inside that building for months and months. It felt fantastic to be able to walk back into that building and order a coffee for the first time in three years, and I told them so. All of the workers behind the counter immediately perked up at this, and one of them told me, “That’s great, because we’ve been doing it for you!”

That response really tied in with something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is my community and what I can do to give back to it. In fact, I thought about it every time I walked by and saw people working towards making the Healing Grounds happen. I think there are a lot of answers to that question and I’m not done unearthing all of them, but I do feel like I gave something back to Buffalo last weekend. I have been struggling with mental health issues for a while and I was worried that the responsibility of organizing the fair would exacerbate them, but actually it was incredibly rewarding to see people in my community excited and happy about something that I made happen. Seeing something that I did affect others in a positive way made me feel worthwhile in a way I haven’t recently. 

It also got me thinking about the things we lost during the pandemic, and the things we’ve been starting to gain back. It’s like we’re living in a post-Covid alternate universe. My favorite coffee shop is back, but it’s different now. I still miss Sweetness, but there are uniquely cool things about the Healing Grounds: more worker-owned co-ops in my community, please! The zine fair is back, but it’s different now. I still miss Sugar City; in fact, as much joy as ZineFest brought me, it also got me reminiscing about Sugar City in a way that reopened some old wounds. But there are uniquely cool things about a ZineFest that’s hosted by Book Arts and Just Buffalo too: zinemakers and poets are similar but separate communities, and several people commented to me that it was cool to see them all engaging about art together at a single event.

So here’s to the things we miss, and to shaping the things that replace them with intentionality and care to make sure they fit our communities in all the right ways. And of course, here’s to many more years of ZineFest!

#buffalo#just buffalo literary center#sugar city#wny book arts center#zine fair

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