During a time when it seemed things might not return to any semblance of normalcy, it felt important to give the Real Change community a reminder of light at the end of the tunnel — and to imagine moving past simply surviving toward something greater and well deserved.
Inspired by Portland street paper Street Roots’ annual holiday zine, Real Change staff decided to create a zine in our own community. In our upcoming zine, “Return,” Real Change vendors showcase and are compensated for their art and writing. Vendors will purchase the zine for $2 and sell it for $4.
Creative pursuits are often lost in the shuffle of doing what it takes to survive, but they are still vital for a person’s mental and emotional wellbeing. As contributing artist John Nelson put it, “Art is the heartbeat of civilization.”
Other contributors felt similarly. “To me, art means dreams, desires and beauty,” said Canada Jones.
Contributing artist Paige Owens explained, “This zine was important for me to put some work into because I had basically given up doing art or being artistic. ... I remembered how fulfilling art was for me every time I’ve done it, but that gets lost in daily routines, work, eat, relax, repeat.”
Real Change supporters and readers like you understand the need to help foster a community in which people can thrive. When we put out a call for art supplies, mid-lockdown, we weren’t sure if people would be willing or able to prioritize supporting this project during such a critical time. But the response was truly overwhelming.
For weeks, the boxes of brand new supplies, gift cards and volunteer-assembled art and writing kits seemed endless. Zine project co-lead Ainsley Meyer’s office was essentially unusable, becoming a temporary art supply storage closet practically overnight. Excitement over distributing brand new, quality art supplies felt palpable in the vendor center. As a direct result of these donations, art became accessible to the Real Change community in a whole new way. Vendors got to experiment with mediums they hadn’t before and, if a project didn’t pan out, create pieces with the assurance that there were always more supplies.
With pandemic restrictions lifting, we’re all grappling with what it means to “return.” The world we’ve known so far has been inhospitable to many. Who and what are we returning to? We asked Real Change vendors to explore these questions when working on contributions for this zine.
Contributing artist Savanna Jacobson missed working on her photography in cafes and darkrooms throughout lockdown. Using instant cameras helped her to continue working creatively and feel connected while she still eagerly anticipated going back to the communities she’d so missed. Her dreams of return are made tangible in the work she has featured in this upcoming zine.
For contributing poet Charmaine Cooley, this project meant a return to self, while also helping her feel more connected to her Real Change community. “I wanted to participate to showcase my talent and get back into writing. … ‘Return,’ to me, means return back to writing, return back to what you’re good at,” she said. “A way for me to showcase my art and a way to see what my fellow vendors are doing and what they’re good at.”
When you buy a copy of “Return,” you’ll be supporting not just your local vendor but also all the vendors who submitted their art and writing, contributing poet Susan McRoy — who participated in the editing process — and every volunteer who donated their resources. You’ll have a chance to see from a new perspective and affirm the importance of projects like these.
As vendors return to their posts, please consider supporting their efforts by stopping by and purchasing a $4 zine with your weekly newspaper. “Return” will be made available for vendors to purchase and resell on July 28, 2021.
Read more of the July 21-27, 2021 issue.