Zine Fest Houston

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Zine Fest Houston (ZFH) is an annual, all-ages festival dedicated to promoting zines (self-published magazines), mini-comics, and other forms of small press, alternative, and underground DIY media and art.

Admission is always free and low cost table space is made available for creators, writers, and artists involved in the creation, publication, distribution, or promotion of alternative DIY media. ZFH is the sole event in Houston that specifically provides a platform for emerging and established regional and national zine makers in the DIY community to exchange new work and create meaningful relationships that lead to productive collaboration.

History Of ZFH

The roots of zine festivals in Houston can be traced back to a spontaneous gathering in the Hermann Park picnic area where the creators of Black Fist, Coffee and Hash Browns, Uh, and Virus Board came together to show off the latest issues of their zines back in May of 1993.

The organization now known as Zine Fest Houston began in 2004 as “The Houston Comix and Zine Festival.” The first two annual festivals were sponsored by the Houston Area Comics Society, but the event became a separate entity and officially broke away from the parent group in 2006. In 2008 the name of the festival was changed to Zine Fest Houston to differentiate the event from the traditional idea of a comic convention and to emphasize the focus on DIY and alternative media.

The first organized event was held at Super Happy Fun Land on November 20, 2004. Despite the ambitious program book, it was an intimate gathering of comic and zine creators, similar to the original zine picnic, but indoors. Over the years, the zine festival would slowly grow in step with the local zine and independent publishing scene.

The 2005 festival took place at Southmore House as an unofficial extension of the Art Crawl route. This year saw a slightly larger crowd in a smaller venue and featured the addition of music, provided by Organ Failure and Boone Graham.

In the fall of 2006, the Houston Comic and Zine Festival partnered with the Westheimer Block Party for a festival within a festival with more creators and more traffic than in previous years. The Zine Fest crew continued to exhibit at the semi-annual Block Party under the banner of “Comix and Zines and Westheimer,” until the last Block Party in Fall of 2009. Though there was no official zine fest in 2007, the comics and zine exhibit on the patio behind Avant Garden during the Fall 2007 Block Party was a sort of mini zine festival.

In 2008, the name was officially changed to Zine Fest Houston and the planned date for the event was moved from the fall to late spring. The original plan was for the new Zine Fest Houston to “return” to Super Happy Fun Land, now at a new location. Unfortunately, Super Happy Fun Land was temporarily closed and began a battle with permit bureaucracy that lasted over a year. Super Happy Fun Land did not reopen until 2009.

The 2008 Zine Fest was originally canceled, but at the last minute, the Secret Saturday Show came to the rescue of the orphaned Zine Festival and let us set up during their Memorial Day weekend show. The spontaneous event turned out to be the largest zine fest in Houston up to that point and featured interactive art projects, an auction to benefit Super Happy Fun Land and music provided by the Secret Saturday Show including a surprise appearance by Butch Klotz of 30 Foot Fall who was also one of the veteran zinesters of the Houston scene in the 90s. What started as a small gathering became a small festival.

From 2009-2011, Zine Fest was nomadic; it happened in parks, parking garage rooftops such as Khon’s, Art Crawl events, or wherever anyone was willing to host the festival. In 2010, shane patrick boyle organized ZFH with the help of Lindsey Simard until 2011, when he stepped down from his leadership position. ZFH 2012, organized by Simard, took place at Super Happy Funland. The 2012 festival marked the end of an era for ZFH, with the retirement of long-time organizer Simard. Before Lindsey relocated to California in 2012, she approached María-Elisa Heg and Anastasia “Stacy” Kirages to be the new festival organizers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJVXmEXe9wI – shane patrick boyle at ZFH 2012

2013 was a year of dramatic changes for Zine Fest Houston: Organizers María-Elisa Heg and Stacy Kirages officially took the organizational reins and helped secure a new venue for the 2013 festival at The Printing Museum, known at the time as, The Museum of Printing History. The Printing Museum building boasts a small auditorium and classroom spaces which made it possible for the fest to do more in terms of workshops and co-current programming. From 2013-2015, Zine Fest Houston was held at The Printing Museum, and grew in size every year. After ZFH 2015, it became very apparent the festival had outgrown the space. In 2016, Sarah Welch joined the organizer team alongside María-Elisa Heg and Stacy Kirages. Together they moved the festival to Lawndale Art Center: a three-story building in the Houston Museum District where more zinesters could be accommodated, and programming and workshops could take place on the third floor. Evan McCarley joined the core organizer team in 2017 after several years of helping organize ZFH after-parties and fundraising events.

2017 was a difficult year for the Zine Fest Houston team. shane patrick boyle, passed away unexpectedly in March, and Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and other parts of the Gulf Coast in late August. Lawndale Art Center was thankfully unaffected by Harvey and the 2017 festival was able to take place as planned.

2018 and 2019 were both record-breaking attendance years for Zine Fest Houston with almost 1,400 attendees in 2019, the last year ZFH took place at Lawndale Art Center. In a moment both exciting and bittersweet, ZFH realized it had outgrown the arts venue that had generously hosted it for three years. The growth of the festival has gone beyond attendance, however, with programming like the invitational Comix Gauntlet challenge, the ZFH compilation release event, and numerous workshops throughout the year in collaboration with areawide organizations.

2020 has been an incredible challenge for everyone, including ZFH. Unable to mount our annual festival in-person due to safety concerns around COVID-19, we have decided to take the fest completely digital to meet the needs of our community while also taking important steps to ensure the safety of all. Streaming on Twitch for the first time, we will be presenting a full broadcast day of virtual programming that will feature vendors promotional videos, interviews, panel discussions, and a wide assortment of live presentations.