Denver artist Alan Topp first encountered the idea of a zine swap via tumblr, where he connected with a group of zinesters based in the United Kingdom. The zinesters were to submit several of their own publications in exchange for zines published by other artists. Attracted to the community building and cultural exchange inherent in such a swap, Topp prepared his own zines for shipment. But after he calculated the cost of sending his work abroad, he reconsidered and instead organized the First Annual Denver Zine Interchange with the help of the Denver Zine Library, a Westword MasterMind winner that collects the self-published booklets. He hopes the project will help zinesters “promote themselves and each other,” he says.
To participate, artists should submit three to ten zines of their own to the DZL; one of those will be archived at the library, while the rest will be randomly redistributed later this spring to other zinesters who join in the exchange. The deadline for submission is Wednesday, April 15.
Topp says he will include some of his own zines, which he has been making since his days as a student at Metro State University, where he received his bachelor's of fine art in erawing in 2013. His zines usually feature his own art work, illustrations that draw from sources including mythology and portraiture. As an artist, Topp has opportunities to display his work outside of the zine medium; he's an exhibiting member of Boxcar Gallery, in the Art District of Santa Fe. But he values zines because they can make art more accessible for the public. “Instead of buying a piece of art for five hundred dollars, you can buy a zine that features that art for five dollars,” he says.
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In addition to initiating the Interchange and promoting his own work, Topp has also been introducing zines to new audiences as an art instructor. He currently teaches at the Good Shepard Catholic School, where he gives his elementary and middle-school students the task of making their own zines. As Topp notes, zines empower individuals, including kids, to “put ideas down without worrying about the response. If it’s written and someone doesn’t like it, they can move on.”
Topp expects about one hundred zinesters to participate in the Interchange, and thinks Denver’s diverse zine scene will make for an interesting selection, with a wide range of styles, topics and even ideologies. “Left-wing and right-wing may get each other's stuff," he says, "and on an adult level that should be faced. That’s what art is for: giving each other the chance to think, to challenge.”