On Saturday, October 29, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosted Canzine, a pay-what-you-can independent zine and arts festival.

Zine culture is a historically influential movement in fringe art and music. It has ebbed and flowed, flitting into the North American mainstream in the 1970s and 1990s, then back into the underground art culture in the present.

Chatter and cheer animated the Weston Family Learning Centre where the festival was held.

Spanning three vast seminar rooms, Canzine hosted various artists and their works. Tables were adorned with a multitude of artistic disciplines, from genre fiction, comics, feminist zines, and pop culture essays. The rooms were filled with a sense of DIY camaraderie, as people purchased small press and self-published works, chatted with the artists, and even doodled at their booths.

Not only was Canzine a chance for artists and enthusiasts to connect, but there were also live opportunities to experience the Toronto art scene. During “Broken Pencil LIVE!” members of Broken Pencil Magazine appeared on stage for the first time ever. Their act included opera singers who sang mesmerizing arias, accompanied by a skilled accordionist. A couple of writers read excerpts from their works. Live interviews with columnists were also included in this demonstration.

As these performances were happening, three illustrators did some “zine racing” on the sides of the stages. Their artwork was later put on display outside the hall. Further into the evening, Broken Pencil’s panel of POC science fiction writers offered an enlightening discussion about the trials and successes of artists of colour in art and literature.

The festival was family-friendly. Parents toted their children around the museum space and even took them to a few programmed events. Nine-year-old zinester Sidney Munroe hosted a drawing workshop for kids, and eleven-year-old artist Elly Niedzviecki led a group on making meatballs out of yarn.

To see these independent artists is a gratifying sight, knowing that their original stories and perspectives are celebrated even in today’s oversaturated mainstream scene.

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