More than aesthetics, art is a tool for change.
At least it is to two Chicagoans who are setting out to unify a diverse and rapidly evolving neighborhood with the first-ever Logan Square Independent Zine Fest called, #ZINEMercado.
And it may just be working. Less than a week before the event, the nonprofit organization’s efforts are already apparent. Boasting more than 85,000 people on Facebook talking about the Comfort Station-hosted zine fest Sunday, #ZINEMercado may be in its infancy, but it’s an event that is expected to stay. And, with the continued effort of its creators Oscar Arriola and CHema Skandal, it can help provide a platform for the community and beyond, to allow art to do what it does best: affect change.
“I’m from Mexico City, and I moved to Chicago in 2010,” CHema Skandal said. “I’ve seen Logan Square change a lot. Now imagine people who have been living here 30 years, how fast it’s changing for them, so I wanted to merge the different backgrounds that we used to have here, Polish people Latino, Puerto Rican, Mexican and of course, [Caucasian] in a cultural event.”
Wanting his art to speak for itself, CHema Skandal always hides his face in a flamboyant ski mask. He’s a musician and graphic artist whose calm, nonchalant and yet powerful presence is the perfect contrast to the artistic movement he and Arriola, a just as soothing and kind photographer, are kicking off.
“We just want people to be aware of the talent here in Chicago and bring artists together who didn’t know each other,” Arriola said, “to make Chicago be more recognized as a meeting point for other artists.”
Because Comfort Station is a small venue, the two have curated 14 disparate and distinctive artists to compose the zine fest (the full list and links to their work is below). One artist moved to Chicago from Nigeria. Another is a collective of women. Some are even being flown in from New York, California, Arizona and Texas. There will also be music and arts programming during the fest including art talks by Johnny Sampson and CHema Skandal, a performance by Wet Wallet, and DJ sets by Amara Betty and Esteban La Groue of Impala Sound Champions.
At the event, zines will either be available to be traded with other artists, or for purchase from $1 to $10, typically. In the zine world, as an artist gains a more robust following, the price of their zines also increases. For this event, however, it’s intended to be a showcase of work, as a way to bring the community of all ages and backgrounds together to share in the power of art.
“We want to be all inclusive with all types of zine makers,” the Facebook event description reads. “Share our ideas, backgrounds, aesthetics, aspirations, dreams and engage in dialogue through our self-made publications. Kids and families are encouraged to attend :-).”
As LoganSquarist sipped coffee at Reno Chicago and chatted about the purpose of zines, Arriola lit up when he began describing the details he loved in the select zines he brought to the interview.
From a zine focusing on the tricked-out cars spotted in a single day in a Mexican neighborhood to one that layers photos from a California vacation with comments through a single color and its varying hues; zines can be personal, socio-political, humorous and musical — Arriola has them all.
“This is what I love about them,” he said as his hands picked up his collection and delicately arranged them for LoganSquarist to view. “They can be about anything, and it’s an affordable way to collect someone’s artwork.”
In the almost seven years CHema Skandal has called Chicago home, he’s developed an impressive roster of work, including those for Red Bull and Netflix. He was selected out of all the graphic artists in the city to create a title credit for an episode for the Chicago-created and based binge-worthy show, Easy.
As a musician, he plays the keyboards and collaborates with other jazz groups in the city by playing the trumpet. And somehow still finds time to spin 1960s rock steady and independent-Jamaica reggae at Crown Liquors and Slippery Slope.
And much of his exposure and the artistic community he’s gotten to know is because of Arriola, who has a focused passion to connect the unknowing community to the city’s artists.
“I’ve always loved contemporary art and looking at it, creating it, collecting zines and I want to help artists out,” he said. “There are a lot of artists out there, but they tend to be bad at promotion, so I want to help introduce people to their work.”
Arriola’s primary medium for expression is photography, and of course, creating events not only for his day job at the Chicago Public Library, but for the community as a whole.
The duo plans to continue to grow the event, and they hope to host it in a bigger venue or on the property outside the Comfort Station next.
Adam Jason Cohen
Flatlands / Fltlnds Press
Grime Time Magazine
Public Collectors / Marc Fischer
Pubes & ‘Tudes – Sell Data Sal Daña, Alicia Rose, Erin K Drew, Jill Lloyd Flanagan
Tan & Loose Press / Clay Hickson
The Fotoflow Press & Friends booth will also feature zines by:
Alamo Igloo / Keith Herzik
Desilu Munoz & Joe Goblyn of Applesauce Industries
Knowing Your Worth – Sara Gonzales & Rich Gutierrez