Multimedia zine cultivates creativity on campus


Both pages were published in the fall of 2016 under the theme entitled “roots”. (Photo Courtesy of Victoria Stevans)

By Sarah Morris / Staff Writer

With the right angle and some adjusting of the photo’s exposure and saturation, Caitrin Bogart made art out of five cracked eggs she saw spattered on an Oakland street.

The photograph, aptly titled “oops!,” was featured in ambi- magazine — a multimedia zine at Pitt — in February on the magazine’s Tumblr.

Bogart, a senior majoring in linguistics and French, co-founded the zine three years ago with zine President Victoria Stevans, a senior English literature and fiction writing major, with the intention of creating a welcoming space for all forms of art.

“[Stevans and I] went to a couple meetings for different publications, and I know that I personally found them utterly terrifying — incredibly intimidating,” Bogart said. “I was like, I am not experienced, but I definitely had things that I want to share, and I wanted to be around creative people.”

And they have a great appreciation for these other publications that exist, acknowledging the importance of different levels of editing going on at organizations around campus. But it’s clear ambi- is filling a space that was not previously occupied — a place for sharing all types of work in a way that is official without needing to be scary.

“A lot of things are creative expression, even if people don’t label them creative expression,” Bogart said.

Stevans and Bogart chose ambi- — a prefix meaning “both” — as a name for their zine because they wanted to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between editors and creators. And “both” applies to more than that now — ambi- exists both in print and online, and also takes on traditional, literary writing as well as more unexpected forms.

ambi- accepts a variety of art forms for submissions — poetry, fiction, short films, comics and even things not usually considered art, like recipes and playlists. Bogart herself has submitted a number of recipes for ambi-, and both she and Stevans feel that these works are the kinds of creativity that typically fly under the radar with other magazines.

“Originally we were planning on taking mostly prose and poetry, but now we’re much more interested in taking all different ways students at Pitt express themselves creatively,” Bogart said.

Ambi- also has a Tumblr called (Photo Courtesy of Victoria Stevans)

A physical form is published annually, but most submissions — which are rolling and guided by a bi-monthly theme — are featured exclusively on the zine’s Tumblr.

“Most of [the print zine] is collage and is definitely in the vein of zines like Riot Grrrl zines from the ‘90s,” Stevans said.

Although ambi- isn’t making any sweeping political statements like the Riot Grrrl zine — an underground feminist punk zine — Stevans and Bogart take interest in the aesthetics and functionality of that homemade patchwork style.

“We’re just a little bit more handmade, and a little bit less intimidating,” Bogart said.

Stevans and Bogart work on making the physical issues themselves — the final product resembling what looks like a more professional version of a collage. And the website has a similar feeling to it — while not a traditional, physical collage, the works sit together over a soft, sky-themed background on a Tumblr blog, bringing the internet as close as it can come to the feel of a zine.

Bisshoy Anwar — a sophomore English major and writer for the magazine — said ambi- has a much more casual atmosphere than other publications, making it more approachable for beginner writers.

“That’s not to say we don’t take it seriously — we do,” Anwar said. “But there’s a great air of informality that makes it very easy to take risks with your writing because you know no one will judge you too harshly if they’re not in favor of it. It’s as healthy a creative environment as I think there can be.”

And this freedom has produced some submissions that might really seem out there. According to Stevans, one of ambi-’s contributors was working in a chemistry lab and had an experiment where the physical product inspired the creator to turn it into an art project for the zine.

“This is a surreal piece, which defies the rules of nature and gravity. My favorite aspect is the sailboat and liquid which should fall down but stay in the glass. It reminds me that falling down is a scary, vulnerable part of life that we choose to avoid and hide. We hold the pieces of ourselves together even when we feel like the world is pulling us down.” -Ria Joglekar (Photo Courtesy of Victoria Stevans)

That’s what sets ambi- apart — its ability to see creativity where others might not, and to foster it. Stevans and Bogart both talk a lot about creating playlists — an art form that people really don’t always recognize as such. But they recognize the passion that people put into this form of creation, and how important it can be to the artist.

“You have people who say, ‘Oh I’m not creative, I’m a chem major,’ but they write poetry in their spare time — [they] clearly are a person who creates,” Bogart said.

Stevans and Bogart encourage students across disciplines to submit, saying that college is a great opportunity to try new things and experiment with art.

“College is a good chance to try to do something that lasts longer than you,” Stevans said.

And for Stevans and Bogart, the creation of their zine — a creative community at Pitt that encourages personal growth and exploration through art in many mediums — is the thing they hope will outlast them.

“Pitt is this school that a big part of its identity is being STEM — but we want to make it STEAM. Insert that A for Arts. Or for ambi-,” Bogart said.