Urbana Free Library introduces self-expression through zines


Photo courtesy of Emily Guske

Graduate student, Emily Guske, works at an IMC Zine Library event featuring zines from the library’s collection in Sept. 2021. The Urbana Free Library utilizes zines as a form of self-expression.

By Michelle Martinez, Staff Writer

Carol Inskeep recalls a memorable zine made by a trans individual during pride fest. She said is was beautiful and moving to see someone share something so personal about themselves for others to see. 

She is now a part of a larger event at the Urbana Free Library: a zine-making workshop. The event is co-sponsored with the Urbana Champaign Independent Media Center.

Inskeep, an adult programmer at the Urbana Free Library, said she’s done zine workshops in the past and soon found out many people enjoy leaving the digital world to do something hands-on, especially when self-expression is involved.

“So many times when people do art, they get down on themselves and they’re ashamed of it, and there’s something about the culture of zines where it’s not supposed to be perfect,” Inskeep said. “It’s not even supposed to look slick, it’s supposed to look DIY.”

Inskeep said people can easily use zines as a creative outlet for different kinds of storytelling. It can be a political statement to educate people, a sex education guide or something as simple as a zine about a pet, she said. 

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“It can be something they just want to learn about, something they want to explain to others or it can just be something to make you laugh,” Inskeep said. “I’ve seen lots of people use collage and put something together in really amusing ways.”

Inskeep said many people started making zines during the heat of the pandemic, including one of her friends.

Zines, she said, helped people concentrate on their mental well-being, which has been a challenge for lots of people during the pandemic.

“It was about the things they were doing to help their mental health,” Inskeep said. ”They were doing this for themselves and for other people who were going to the same thing.”

Inskeep said zine-making is also a way to increase confidence and open-mindedness, whether that be internally or through words of encouragement from others.

“I guess for me it’s like trying to remind people you have a right to take time to be creative, to express yourself, be non-judgmental of yourself and get encouragement from other people,” Inskeep said. “Just enjoy the time doing it.”

Inskeep said all of these aspects of self-expression through zine-making will be further explained at the zine-making workshop this weekend.

Emily Guske, second year graduate student at the University of Illinois, said she got involved in this event through her volunteer work at the Independent Media Center.

She said her relationship with zines started with Dr. Mimi Thi Nguyen, professor in LAS at the University of Illinois. 

“(Nguyen) has made a really great zine, and I believe it’s called ‘Evolution of a Race Riot,’” Guske said. “She was really focused on getting more punks of color to get their voices heard in zines because it was a predominately white space.”

Guske said she always knew she had a passion for art, but she always strayed away from digital art. Zines were a perfect introduction for her to having a creative outlet, she said. 

Like many, Guske said she also started a zine with one of her close friends in 2020 during the onset of the pandemic.

She said it was a way to safely express herself with her friends.

“It was kind of a way to get together safely and have a little bit of a creative outlet,” Guske said.

The zine she made is called “Don’t Tread Lightly.” It’s a compilation zine that had many of her friends were involved in. She said they would all send her different things to include in the zine.

Topics ranged from identity to what was going on in the current political climate at the time. 

“It was just a bunch of our friends sending things to us, whether it be photos, poems, writing, drawings, and we put them all together in the zine,” Guske said. 

She also said that whether someone has experience or not, this workshop will be a safe place for those who want to explore their creativity. 

“You don’t need any experience at all to come and show up,” Guske said. “I think the best thing about zines is that everybody can make them.”

The zine-making workshop will take place at The Urbana Free Library Saturday at 3 p.m. The event will be in person, but there is also an option to pick up supplies at the library and create a zine from home. 

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