A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend excitedly telling me that she had come across a zine I made when I was seventeen at the Denver Zine Library. My zine, for inquiring minds, was a short little comic about my devotion to my 1984 Volvo, Gunther. Teenage me spent hours late at night scribbling and drawing this ode to my old car. Not only was I thrilled (though a little embarrassed) that this thing still exists in the care of the Denver Zine Library, but I'm excited that there is a place where art and writing that might never make it into a gallery or publishing house can be preserved and valued.I remember spending long weekend afternoons at the Denver Zine Library (then at its Platte Street location) in high school after I got out of my bagel-shop job. Cream cheese still stuck in my boots, I'd make the drive from Golden to just sit for hours poring through people's handmade expressions, reading strange comics and personal manifestos on feminism. I liked the equality of the Zine Library. Whether it's interviews with obscure punk bands or a sad comic about someone's deep, personal heartbreak, the library carefully preserves all of this art that might otherwise be lost to time.
But most of all, the Zine Library is inspiring: It's a way for people who may never have exhibitions in fancy galleries to be able to express themselves. And not even just that, but for their art to be valued. As a gawky teenager, it was motivating to see that anyone, really anyone, could create something and publish it themselves, and that people would care enough to painstakingly archive their work for others to read.
From Denver zines like Needles for Teeth and The Yellow Rake to perzines that felt like reading someone's diary, I couldn't get enough of the wide variety of work at the library. Reading through it all inspired me to make my own zines, and however embarrassing, I'm glad they still exist somewhere beyond my parents' house or a distant memory. And I'm glad that the library exists to show aspiring writers and artists that they don't need permission or approval from anyone to create.
If there's one thing the Denver Zine Library taught me, it's that there are no guidelines for art. Art can be whatever you want it to be, whether it's a booklet chronicling the dogs you've known, a series of random collages, or stick figures telling the story of your breakup. The library showed me that I really could make whatever I wanted, and it was comforting to know that there was, and still is, a place for it.