Zinesters Take Over Main Street

This week Main Street and its environs will be the stage of MagScene on Main. There will be three days of interactive events hosted by cutting edge arts and literary magazines. Over the course of the 16th, 17th and 18th workshops, talks, exhibits and trivia games will pop up anywhere from coffee shops to comic book stores. You may be inspired to start your own ‘zine or perhaps even buy one. I talked to MagScene organizer and general Renaissance woman Tracy Stefanucci and got the lowdown.

How did you get involved with organizing MagScene on Main?

Tracy Stefanucci: In 2010, the former Project Coordinator at the Magazine Association of BC invited me to consult on the Main Street Magazine Tour event, presumably because of my experience organizing events for OCW Magazine and my familiarity with Vancouver’s cultural publishing community. It was the first year that the event was hosted as a “magazine” tour (formerly it had been a “Book and Magazine” Tour, as it had been co-produced by MABC and the BC Book Publishers Association). In 2011, MABC invited me to organize the event; this was very successful, so I’ve taken up the opportunity again this year. MagScene is a good fit for me, as my partner and I run a studio, Project Space Studio. It offers all of the services involved in this kind of project, from project management and artistic direction to marketing and volunteer coordination. I also organize Canzine West which is hosted by Toronto-based Broken Pencil. I will also be organizing the first annual Vancouver Art/Book Fair hosted by Project Space in partnership with Fillip, so this project also feels like a natural thing to take on.

MagScene used to be called the Main St Magazine Tour. Besides the renaming what other changes from previous years can we expect?

Tracy: The spirit of the event is the same, but the format is different and it has been extended from one-day to three-days long. We’ve made all of the adaptations in response to feedback from last year’s event. People said loud and clear that they wanted more events, longer events, more time to mingle particularly with presenters and magazine staff and more hands-on workshops. We have delivered all of these things. There also won’t be tour guides this year, and there is a modest cover charge to accommodate the costs of hosting a larger event. Previously the event has been free.

There is a lot of diversity in the MagScene line-up, from events about art and self-publishing to social change. Do you feel this kind of multi-disciplinary approach is the way forward in the Vancouver arts scene?

Tracy: Definitely. The event can’t help but embody my personal values and opinions about this, as I’ve been tasked with envisioning it, so you can definitely see that bias. But I think my view is one that many people are expressing today, read Surviving the Culture Change by Diane Ragsdale or watch What is Publication? by Matthew Stadler. In addition to providing entertainment, education and networking opportunities, MagScene on Main is intended to demonstrate that the magazine is one piece in a complex network of Vancouver’s cultural community. A magazine is a hub for a community of interest. It is a public space in which ideas and information can be exchanged and relatively easily disseminated, with different restraints affecting print versus online. It also documents a moment in time by preserving what people are creating and concerned with at that time. MagScene on Main takes this physical artifact of the magazine and expands it into an experience. Each event embodies something about the host publication, allowing them a new way to engage with their audience. This kind of approach, being multi-dimensional as in, reaching people in print, online and in person, is crucial to a magazine’s ability to be and stay relevant.

Which event are you most excited about?

Tracy: I can’t really choose one; I think that all of the events have something great to offer, and they intentionally reach out to different types of audience members. Some are more tailored to writers or those working in publishing, and others are more tailored to those who simply want to engage with viewing, listening to or creating artistic work.

The events pop up in a variety of businesses and cultural spaces on Main St. How important is the local community aspect of Main St to the whole event?

Tracy: That is definitely an important aspect of the event. Like how a magazine is one hub in a networked community of interest, businesses and cultural spaces like coffee shops or artist-run centres are also crucial “public spaces” that nurture and sustain these communities. It’s the interplay between these businesses, cultural spaces, magazines, artists, writers, etc., and the public, that will provide Vancouver with a dynamic and vibrant cultural community.

You co-founded OCW Magazine. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start up their own magazine?

Tracy: Be unrelenting in your search for and examination of the magazines that are already out there. Take publishers of the magazines you love out for coffee but respect that they are insanely busy! Take on every volunteer gig you can get your hands on. Read books like Turning Pages: Editorial Design for Print Media, Behind the Zines and the essay about magazines in Graphic Design: Now in Production — and anything else you can get your hands on about magazine publishing today. Also read and watch the article and video mentioned earlier. Don’t be fooled by the illusion that publishing is some difficult or serious business that occurs behind closed doors. With the invention of the internet and digital tools, it is now one of the least risky times to be a publisher.

What are you hoping people take away from the MagScene on Main experience?

Tracy: I hope people leave MagScene on Main feeling inspired and enlivened. That they learn about new magazines, connect with spaces they hadn’t visited before and meet new people. That they start to identify themselves as magazine readers, contributors or publishers.   And, if they are happy with the event, that they subscribe to at least one of the magazines involved. We live in a market economy, so, unfortunately, money is required to sustain these endeavours. In Canada we are lucky to have access to subsidies from government and other public and private funders, but, ultimately, we rely on the support of audiences to be able to continue producing events like MagScene on Main and magazines like those involved.


To find out more about the schedule and tickets go to http://magsceneonmain.com/.

Jessica O'Brien

Jessica O'Brien

Jessica O'Brien fills many the happy hour as contributing editor and writer for the Vancouver Weekly. She can be found eating all the nibbles at book launches or getting lost in tiny secondhand book stores. Follow her on twitter @jesso_brien