Saint John’s SAD DOG Magazine is working to inspire the next wave of New Brunswick indie publishers.
Although they’ve only been at it for just over a year, SAD DOG Magazine founders Kasie Wilcox and Angel Bustard are helping to revive zine culture in New Brunswick as both advocates and publishers of alternative media. With an eye to “emerging, contemporary and alternative” subject matter, their efforts to create and facilitate on an independent level are both inspiring and motivating.
During the month of April, Wilcox and Bustard will join artists, organizers and festival goers at both Flourish Festival in Fredericton and Quality Block Party in Saint John to present zine and print expos that aim to unite, highlight and showcase work from the many zine creators, printmakers, publishers, writers, comic artists and craftspeople working within the region.
“As long as I’ve lived in Saint John, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been an organized zine fair,” said Bustard. “I started making zines after picking up a copy of Hard Times in The Maritimes, which was about five years ago. With organizing zine fairs for Quality Block Party and Flourish, my hope would be someone new to zines might pick up a copy of SAD DOG and be inspired to make their own zines.”
“Helping to organize a zine and print expo not only creates accessible venues for independent publishing but also helps to support public programming for the arts as a whole.”
Wilcox also sees the simple act of participation as an equally important means of contributing to these emerging festivals that, in the case of both Flourish and QBP, aim to challenge their audience with art and ideas that exist outside the traditional festival model.
“These types of festivals are organized by small groups of people, and we wanted to support them by getting involved,” she said. “Helping to organize a zine and print expo not only creates accessible venues for independent publishing but also helps to support public programming for the arts as a whole.
“It’s important to have an accessible space for people to have their voices heard within their community,” said Wilcox. “This was our initial goal for SAD DOG, to create a publication that represents emerging artists and writers who create contemporary or alternative content in New Brunswick. Zines capture regional, unorthodox and marginalized ideas and we feel that it’s important they have a platform where they can be shared, be in print or in a physical space, especially where as they may not be considered by mainstream media.”
To celebrate the release of Sad Dog #2, Wilcox and Bustard organized a pop-up party in partnership with Saint John’s artist-run-centre, Third Space Gallery. The event which included DJ sets by Corey Bonnevie, 1995 Zellers and Property and video installations by Ryan O’Toole, Michael Ryan Mohan, Emily Saab, Nick Staples was a big step forward in helping to create a community around the work they and others in the region are doing.
This new partnership also led to an event called Short Pause For Thought, a public round-table discussion recapping Sad Dog’s first year in print as well as the current landscape of independently produced publications in the province.
For the event, Wilcox and Bustard were joined by an impressive cast of writers, publishers and curators past and present including Emily Kennedy (Egress Mag), Rachel M Thornton (MTA Zine Library, Visual Artist), Patrick Allaby (Comic Artist and Illustrator, New Brunswick Trash), Kevin Melanson (MTA Zine Library, Visual Artist), Jeff Mann (Visual artist, Argosy Contributor), Evan Furness (Visual artist, Argosy contributor), Julia Wright (Hard Times in the Maritimes), Pamela M Pierce (Hard Times in the Maritimes), and Chloe O’Brion (Juvenilia).
“We are a secret society of people who are connected through a love for tiny, handmade books.”
“It was great to see the different goals zine makers from other cities set for themselves and what they intended to accomplish with their publications,” said Bustard. “We all feel that zines are important as creative outlets that also provide relatable, meaningful content to readers, and we feel that it is especially important as accessible alternatives to mainstream teen publications, in the same way that Hard Times was important to me.
“We also reflected on other issues we face like what is the importance of preserving zines, why record their histories, why continue to make local perspectives accessible, and how to get people engaged,” she said.
They also learned the valuable role zines can play in offering an alternative voice for expression in today’s social media dominant culture. By embracing the cut and paste, photocopied format often associated with zine making, creators can share their experiences in a way that lasts much longer than a simple Facebook post or tweet.
“An interesting point that came out of the discussion is that young people are using zines as a way to bring issues they experiences forward into the public sphere,” said Wilcox. “This was raised by Chloe O’Brion, and through her publication, Juvenilia, which represents artists under 18. She expressed the limitation youth face in having access to all-ages venues and their desire to be included in the arts and music scenes. Many of us are making zines that appeal to younger audiences and are hopefully helping to create an affirmative influence.
“We also questioned why working in print was important to all of us, since so much is moving toward the web,” said Wilcox. “SAD DOG plays with the aesthetics of early desktop publishing, so we are not necessarily dismissive of the web, but at the end of the day, we love holding zines between our fingers. Crystal Drew, a Saint John based artist and illustrator, summarized it kind of perfectly during the round-table when she said, ‘we are a secret society of people who are connected through a love for tiny, handmade books’.”
FLOURISH 2017 Zine & Print Expo | April 22, 2017 | 12:00 p.m – 4 p.m. | 384 Queen Street, Fredericton
Qualoty Block Party Zine & Print Expo | April 29, 2017 | 12:00 p.m – 4 p.m. | Port City Royal, Grannan Street, Saint John