By MIA JACOBS

During her freshman year at NYU, Micah Pegues, now 20, had a realization. As she scanned the display shelves of magazine stands, she found a lack of diversity.  These magazines were created by white people, for white people.

“I didn’t see any magazines that I related to or that I identified with,” says Pegues, a Dallas, Texas native. Through a mutual friend, Pegues discovered Avant Girl, a photocopied, staple-bound booklet, with hand-drawn illustrations and pasted-in images. A classic zine. Avant Girl’s content was produced by female, trans, and non-binary creatives, and edited by Gabiela Yadegari, a student at Bennington College. Pegues was inspired and began brainstorming.

A year later, she had launched her own publication, Polychrome Magazine, by people of color, for people of color. Pegues created an environment through her publication that allowed underrepresented artists, writers, and thinkers to express themselves freely, and without the confines of mainstream media. Over a year, Pegues solicited 28 contributors, ranging from fashion photographers to illustrators. Pegues compiled the articles herself, alongside a small team of friends, to create a 140-page magazine to be printed, and distributed. In a Kickstarter to fund Polychome Magazine, Pegues earned $8,119 from 167 backers, almost doubling her initial goal of $4500.

Pegues is among a growing number of millennials who have self-published a magazine, or zine as it’s often referred to in staple-bound form. For them, mainstream publications lack intriguing content or diversity.  They want to showcase new approaches and new faces. For those who have the resources, creating a publication fills a void that other magazines cannot. For some, it’s a solution to big media publications. Others simply enjoy the process of compiling and creating something that is their own.

“I think people are interested in my magazine because there’s nothing really that similar out there for people of color across the gender spectrum,” says Pegues.

Publications like Polychrome could not be produced in its physical form if it weren’t for its presence on social media. Polychrome’s Instagram page boats over 2,000 followers, and relies mainly on word-of-mouth and “mentions” through social media platforms to gain popularity. Without Polychome’s followers, Pegues’ Kickstarter could have not been possible. Polychrome’s only means of advertisement is on Instagram.

The same goes for Toronto-based Plasma Dolphin, an art magazine founded by two friends, Sonja Katanic, 19, and Emma Cohen, 20. The two have created eleven issues of Plasma Dolphin, evolving it from an online source for creative work to a print publication that is featured in boutique shops around Toronto. The submission-based magazine features adolescent art and writing from Canada and the United States.

“We are interested in showcasing our collaborator’s experience,” said Cohen. “Plasma Dolphin is only a vessel for people to share their work. We try facilitate content by providing a theme for each magazine. For example, this issue is ‘Magical Thinking.’”

Unique publications, especially small-scale ones, tend to create niche audiences that remain devoted to both the message of the magazine and its forms. Printed Matter, an independent art book store, doubles as a quasi art gallery of the staple-bound, shiny, and weird, only-features small-scale publications. Located in Chelsea since 1976, and they fund the New York Art Book fair once a year.

“Sure, mainstream print is dying, but art publications are more popular than ever,” said Leslie Lasiter, a bibliographer at Printed Matter. “Young people creating their own physical publications are often taking a gamble with money– magazines are costly to print. But young people are bombarded with digital media, and the tangibility of a physical magazine that you can keep on your bookshelf is incredibly rewarding.”

As Pegues finishes printing the first issue of Polychrome, she’s already looking for and compiling new contributors. Her feature at the moment is M’lynn Musgrove, a Cherokee singer-songwriter from Miami, Florida.

“I’m just overjoyed to find a platform that represents both my art, and my heritage,” said Musgrove. “I feel like I can be who I am.”