ALEXANDRIA, VA—Combatting the isolation of social-distancing, Your Friend From College, an artistic zine, is the creation of a group of female photography students at Northern Virginia Community College. I had the chance to ask some of the creators of Your Friend From College about the wonderful way they are using their art to give back to their community.
What is a ‘zine?’
A ‘zine’ is a self-published work of original material, usually the product of a single person or small group of people. It is essentially a little magazine—or rather, a magazine is a “mega” zine. With humble roots, this zine fits right in with the small business culture of Alexandria.
Everyone involved in Your Friend From College captures photographs from her own unique perspective and contributes a selection to the zine every issue. Each woman brings her own unique style and inspiration to the zine, resulting in an aesthetic menagerie of art.
How did Your Friend From College begin?
Kate K. Pannozzo created a digital zine as her final presentation for her Spring 2020 semester and wanted to grow that creation. In March of this year, she reached out to other female photography classmates, and thus Your Friend From College was born. “I love making this zine because I am surrounded by women, from different backgrounds, ages, and upbringings, who never cease to inspire me,” says Kate, creator of Your Friend From College.
What inspired you to join this project?
These women were looking for a way to get to know some people in the class, learn a new skill, and do what they love. “I took this photography class to enrich my retirement years,” says Debi Steinbacher, content creator and image maker.
They were also looking for ways to combat isolation and regain a sense of normalcy. “We simply missed comradery,” notes Debi. “So everyone collaborates on this zine on a volunteer basis.”
Collaboration is very important to this group of women; they collaborate with each other, with their professors, and with their local community organizations. When you purchase the zine on their website, there is an opportunity to donate to a local organization that promotes women in the arts.
When you add the zine to your cart, you may make either a donation or a generous donation along with your purchase. It is a beautifully simple process to do some major good.
How do you choose an organization?
“Women are underrepresented in the arts, so we always choose a local organization that empowers women,” explains Debi. The current chosen organization is Del Ray Artisans, a nonprofit art gallery in Alexandria, Virginia.
The organizations change per issue, but Your Friend From College ensures they always promote the arts for women.
What was the inspiration for this issue?
“We brainstorm on what’s going on in the world, what touches us,” says Debi. Each issue is inspired by what seems timely in the world. The current issue, Forgotten, is about “caring for the people we love,” as families deal with scars from the pandemic and navigate the upcoming holiday season.
As the year rounds to an end, the next issue will be about nostalgia and reflection.
What does Your Friend From College represent?
This zine exemplifies unity in the unique. “We all have different interests and skills, which is what makes our zine successful,” says Debi. “It’s not homogeneous.”
Maribel, content creator and image maker, adds, “I love the fact that we are different. We have different opinions and different points of view, but we also have a lot of respect for each other.”
With talents ranging in ages from 26-66 and a mix of backgrounds and experiences, this publication is truly as unique as the women who made it.
Where do you see Your Friend From College going from here?
Originally an open-ended class project, the ultimate goal of the Your Friend From College artists is to become recognized for their art. Melani, another content creator and image maker, states, “What inspires and drives me to create is being able to use my art to raise awareness, show authentic emotions, and be part of a discussion that is way bigger than a piece of art.”
To help them achieve this recognition and generate that discussion, you can purchase copies of Your Friend From College, along with pieces of artwork by content creator and illustrator, Samantha, here.
Debi concludes, “This is not a money-making venture, but a project of passion. We are always looking for ways we can give back and make art a part of people’s lives.”