The Zine Scene Goes Underground, NYC Subway Style

DIY Underground

If you didn’t know, this here website/quarterly jammie jam you peruse on the daily began as a graffiti zine. A “DIY” way for folks in the field to be seen, heard, and to share their work on the low key, self-published tip. Zine steez flows through our veins like nobility flows through a blue blood (not an oxymoron, we ain’t trippin’) so this story hits pretty close to home.

Last week on NYC’s F train, a number of folks set out on a daring endeavor: Hit three boroughs, write, draw, and throw together some zines all while rocking on the F in a makeshift studio:

One woman drew cartoons in an artist’s notebook. Another snipped off pieces from a subway map, then pasted them onto a white paper. Yellow fliers that read “Service Changes” along with “Zine Residency!” were taped to subway car walls. And a black banner with the words “Zinesters in Residence” hung from a railing.

Crazy right? Not for the inspired. The two-day project was put in motion by a librarian and archivist from NYC’s Barnard College. Labeling the event and project “MTA Zine Residency,” Barnard’s Jenna Freeman felt like being underground and on the train cut you off from all the distractions phones and the web, making it the perfect place to put pen to paper.

Like most zines, the “MTA Zine Residency” was a response to some corporate entity bastardizing the game,

It was also conceived partly as a tongue-in-cheek response to a residency announced last March by Amtrak. That program gave free round-trip tickets to selected writers who would compose their work while on long-distance train trips. It was met with widespread enthusiasm that diminished after it emerged that the forms provided by Amtrak to aspiring participants gave the company the right to sell, publish or otherwise use writings submitted with an application.

“Remember the promise and betrayal of the #AmtrakResidency?” the organizers of the subway project wrote, while announcing their own subway and ferry trips. “We won’t pay for your MetroCard, but we also won’t demand to own your stuff!”

That’s the spirit that helped build the foundation of this here culture hub, and it’s a story worth sharing. Hit up the folks over at NY Times to catch the rest of the story. Who knows, maybe you can contribute to some future issues, or maybe even start a chapter or zine of your own.

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