Tucson Zine Fest opens submissions for their summer exhibitions


A Tucson Zine Fest post from Instagram. “Cyber Tucson Zine Fest 2021,, Exhibitor apps open until March 21st, Apply now!”. Courtesy Tucson Zine Fest 

The Tucson Zine Fest is currently taking artist submissions now until March 31 for its virtual event this summer.  

The 100% virtual event will be held on May 9, 2021, after the event was postponed in 2020. The focus is on Southwest artists, who can apply to be an exhibitor to feature self-published zines, independent comic books or other paper art objects.  

The Cyber Tucson Zine Fest will have virtual panels consisting of educational speakers and workshops, as well as a virtual presentation of each exhibition artist. Tucson Zine Fest co-organizer Elisa Mask said that this will provide the “experience of walking up to a table at a zine fest but through a Youtube video.” 

Additionally, the Zine Fest is going to put together a "Tucson Zine Fest 2021 Omnibus Zine" that will include work from all of the participating artists. The omnibus zine will be sold on the Tucson Zine Fest website starting May 9 and its proceeds will be going to two charities: Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund and Allied Media Projects. 


Tucson Zine Fest founder and co-organizer Zac Finger has been writing and drawing since childhood. 

“Eventually, I realized that these little books that I was stapling and printing together were called zines,” Finger said. Finger emphasized that he wanted to carve out space in Tucson for the zine community. 

“I knew that this culture and community was here, but there wasn’t a place for that to be expressed,” Finger said.

The two co-organizers met through the Comic-Con community, but Mask said that zine fest culture is more personable to the artist. 

“At a Comic-Con, everyone is looking to buy a [piece of] Spiderman fan art. … Zines combine so many different types of art: There’s comics, there’s writing, there’s character design. Everything is in a zine,” Mask said.

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Tucson Zine Fest Co-Organizers Zac Finger (left) and Elisa Mask (right) at a 2017 Zine Fest in Eugene, Oregon, featuring their own artwork. Courtesy Elisa Mask 

According to Mask, zines have been around starting from the 1930s. Zines began as celebrations and fan work of popular science fiction franchises, such as Star Trek in the 60s. In the 1960s, the “biggest boom” of zines occurred as their subject matter expanded to include scary stories and horror. 

“The 1970s is when [zines] became a huge punk music thing to self-publish reviews about bands,” Mask said. 

In the 1990s, there were feminist age, riot-girl and anti-patriarchal zines. 

“Now … it’s geared towards those same social issues, but it’s become much broader. You can find a zine about literally anything,” Mask said. 

As self-published works, zines are “almost impossible to find in a regular bookstore or comic book shop,” Finger said. Because there is often a single artist or writer, a zine “is coming from that person’s heart.” With no publisher to censor the work, zines are “a very pure expression” of print media, Finger said.

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 Pages of “Technophilia”, a zine by Elisa Mask. Courtesy Elisa Mask

Co-organizers Zac Finger and Elisa Mask have organized a Tucson Zine Fest 2021 Advisory Board whose members will help establish an inclusive artistic community. 

“We’ve gathered different people from different artistic cultures in Tucson to make an advisory board where we can go through the exhibitors together and vote on these people. [We] look at the criteria and make a decision that is diplomatic,” Mask said.

Lou Northway-Smith, physiology and molecular and cellular biology student at the University of Arizona, is a member of the Tucson Zine Fest 2021 Advisory Board. They started “Sucrose Zines” in 2019, compiling art or written submissions from anyone who considers themselves a “creative Tucson youth.”

Northway-Smith's zines have involved interviews with musicians and bands as well as art. 

“Stylistically, there’s a lot of stuff to draw from like old show posters or old zines,” Northway-Smith said. 

Northway-Smith, who uses a collage style to feature other artists' poetry and visual art, said that the zine community is experiencing a resurgence right now. 

"[It] is really exciting to get to be a part of. [There are] a lot of different directions people can go with [zines],” Northway-Smith said. 

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 Sucrose Zine on Instagram, featuring Chervanna Given’s written work from May 2020. Courtesy Lou Northway-Smith 

Cynthia Naugle, a toy designer and the marketing manager and co-curator for &gallery, is also a member of the Tucson Zine Fest Advisory Board. 

Naugle said that one of her goals as a member of the advisory board is to involve more POC and LGBTQ creators. 

“Representation matters. I’m looking to have more diversity," Naugle said. 

“The big thing with zines that a lot of people don’t realize is that it could be anything, any kind of paper booklet that you put together. It could be poetry, it could be art, it could be a message. That’s the beauty of zines,” Naugle said. 

Exhibitor submissions are due Wednesday, March 31. For more information check out @TucsonZineFest on Instagram, or their website  

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