Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Downstairs Zine Fest to celebrate passion of DIY publishing projects

Eve Chaneles, founder of the Downstairs Zine Fest
Mikaela Gould
Eve Chaneles, founder of the Downstairs Zine Fest

Zines have long been an outlet for do-it-yourself creative expression, offering a “window into someone else’s fascinations without the clinical or academic distance that often comes in books or newspapers,” as Joe Biel wrote in the introduction to “Make a Zine: Start Your Own Underground Publishing Revolution” (Microcosm Press).

“Zines are beautifully unique creatures like dinosaurs or unicorns, only limited by our imaginations,” Biel wrote, adding “Each zine comes uniquely from the person whose mind created it.”

While many zines have moved online over the past 25 years, others remain wedded to the printed page and the tangible experience it provides to both creators and readers.

To celebrate all things zine, the Downstairs Zine Fest will debut Sunday, May 1, at The Downstairs, the underground venue at 121 W. State/Martin Luther King Jr. St. in downtown Ithaca.

The festival will offer zinesters a forum to explore the genre in a variety of settings, from workshops and readings to open mics, storytelling, and musical events.

The Downstairs Zine Fest is the brainchild of Eve Chaneles, who has been working at The Downstairs since it opened during the pandemic last year. The venue has hosted an increasing number of events, including stand-up comedy nights, DJ nights, and band nights while developing its own unique personality apart from its upstairs sibling, The Watershed.

“Zine Fest occurred to me because it was something kind of nerdy, something fun, something casual, something that anyone can be involved with, and something that doesn't require any sort of experience,” Chaneles said, citing support from Downstairs/Watershed owner Ashley Cake. “It seemed like a fun thing that doesn't already exist.”

The Downstairs will host a kickoff party at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 1, offering attendees a chance to peruse and buy locally created zines from experienced and novice zine-makers. The zines will remain on display to read and purchase at the bar throughout May, while the Zine Fest continues with its slate of events, which include:

  • 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 6: Zine Workshop with Melisa Crumrine: “'What is a zine?' 'How do you make one?' 'Can I make one?' Join Melisa Crumrine (local comic/zine creator) in a crafting workshop to learn a short history of this beloved and versatile medium and make a zine of your very own.”
  • 7-9 p.m. Saturday, May 7: “Johnny Dowd's Epic Night of Poetry, Music, Zines & Art," with Johnny Dowd. "Johnny was a poet before he was a musician, and you are invited to see whether he made the right choice, as after a poetry reading the band will join him on the stage. His first of likely many zines will be available for sale, and the last night of his gallery show will be on display."
  • 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, May 10: “Bots of New York,” with host Mickie Quinn
  • 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 12: Literary Jeopardy with local author Bob Proehl
  • 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 13: Trampoline’s “Don’t Call It a Comeback” featuring competitive storytelling hosted by Mickie Quinn
  • • 2:30-4 p.m. Saturday, May 14: Zine-Making Workshop for Teens with Laura Rowley of Illuminati Press (at Buffalo Street Books)
  • 6:30-8 p.m. Saturday, May 14: Zine-Making Workshop for Adults with Laura Rowley of Illuminati Press
  • 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 20: Poetry and Prose Open Mic hosted by Ithaca Voice reporter Jimmy Jordan
  • 7-9 p.m. Saturday, May 21: TBA
  • 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 27: Nothing, Nowhere pop-up event

There are also other events featuring Kenneth McLaurin, SingTrece, and others happening at the Downstairs throughout May. (Some may have cover charges or suggested donations.) For a complete list of events, go here.

Before the Downstairs Zine Fest kickoff party, Buffalo Street Books will host a Book and Zine Fair to “celebrate freedom of expression and publishing outside the mainstream. Running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 1, the fair will welcome “independent publishers, zine-makers, bookbinders and anyone involved with the literary arts…to show and sell their wares.”

The Downstairs Zine Fest is also collaborating with the Community Arts Partnership's Spring Writes Literary Festival, which runs May 5 to June 9 both at various venues around downtown Ithaca and online. Now in its 14th year, Spring Writes will include more than 40 events that feature more than 100 local and regional writers.

“The more, the merrier, as far as literary events in town in May,” Chaneles said, “because we can all help promote each other.”

If You Go
What: Downtown Zine Fest
Where: The Downstairs, 121 West State/MLK Jr. St, Ithaca
When: May 1-30, 2022
Cost: most events are free
Event Info:

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.