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Zine Fest

At this week’s Bay Area Queer Zine Fest, artists sell, swap and inspire

on November 13, 2022

A small group of zine artists gathered in front of the Crisis Club Gallery in Oakland on Saturday afternoon and rifled through the dozens of zines splayed across a white foldout table, looking to trade their own creations with  other zinesters.

The zine swap was a pre-festival event in celebration of the Bay Area Queer Zine Fest, which began Sunday. The weeklong Zine Fest is returning for its fifth festival with a mixture of in-person and remote events until Saturday.

Zine Fest
The Bay Area Queer Zine Fest at the Crisis Club Gallery (Bella Arnold)

Maira McDermott, 32, founded the Bay Area Queer Zine Fest in 2017. McDermott had been making zines since college after discovering the art through Tumblr. 

The conception of the BAQZF came at a pivotal time in McDermott’s life, where they were struggling to express their identity in the world, despite having already come out as genderqueer. McDermott set out to create a deliberate, safe space for queer zinesters to celebrate their art. 

“I was like, ‘You know what, I only want to be surrounded by queer weirdos,’” McDermott said. “I wanted to create this space for us, and a bunch of people hopped on board.”

The first BAQZF took place on, June 17, 2017, at the East Bay Community Space on Telegraph  Avenue in Oakland and has been happening every year since then. Even in 2021, the Zine Fest took place, though remotely. McDermott found it important to have the space for queer zinesters in the East Bay to gather, even if it was on Zoom.

“I think it’s really important to the Bay Area zine scene,” McDermott said. “We highlight specifically queer voices in an area with such rich queer history.” 

There are no hard and fast rules that apply when creating a zine. Some zinesters may center their works around topical matters, like social justice and human rights, while others may take an autobiographical approach. 

The zine swap reflects a wide array of subjects, including a satirical zine titled, “Communism: A book by Joseph McCarthy and Richard Milhous Nixon” — the writing and art is in red ink, a stark contrast to the white paper. 

Zine Fest
The Crisis Club Gallery in Oakland is hosting the Bay Area Queer Zine Fest (Bella Arnold)

Kavya Jolly, a new zinester, created his piece during a “Team Stronger Than You Think” workshop led by McDermott and Niko Nada, owner of Crisis Club Gallery and a BAQZF organizer.

The zine is small and short but packed with gems of humor. Jolly, 16, wanted to poke fun at the common misconceptions of communism while also being creative. 

Creativity and self-expression are central to zinemaking, especially in the age of capitalism, corporate publishing and the internet, Nada said. To them, one of the best ways to express yourself in a low-pressure environment is by folding a piece of printer paper into eighths and writing your feelings down. 

“Zinemaking is low risk, high reward,” Nada said. “Like, you write this thing, draw this thing, print this thing and you don’t have to be conscious of how many likes it’s getting or be conscious of the point. It’s up to the person to perceive it how they will.”

The first in-person event will be a special zine reading at the Crisis Club Gallery at 5 p.m. on Saturday, when the online portion of the festival will commence as well. Remote attendees can pursue the website, which will feature 32 vendors online until Saturday. Each vendor will have their art showcased. Some zines will be downloadable for free and others will be available for purchase. Most zines are priced from $5 to $25. 

In addition, a youth workshop will be held at the Rock Paper Scissors Collective in Oakland at 2 p.m. Saturday.


  1. ethanaiden on November 19, 2022 at 4:47 am

    I truly enjoyed a large dinner table with a group of artists on a daily basis and enjoyed the discussions that grew as ideas, dreams, and difficulties were discussed. Even though I don’t now work in this field, I found that the topics discussed connected with me as a PhD student and expert thesis writer. As I consideration more on the topic, I came to the realization that the worlds of the artist and the researcher are not all that different.

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