Generation Zine

View teen-made digital zine pages inspired by the pandemic age

Miami Zine Fair by The Wolfsonian–FIUThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Zines are powerful tools of expression.

They can enlighten, empower, and amplify.

A zine, taken from "magazine," is a self-published work that emerged from 1970s punk subculture, combining original or appropriated text and images to call for change or share the author's point of view. Today, zines continue to play a role in society, particularly for teens finding their voice. In 2020, a year of upheaval like few before it, zines represented an opportunity to be heard from the isolation of home.

The following zine pages were produced as part of The Wolfsonian–FIU's educational outreach program Zines for Progress (Z4P), which has served more than 1,300 Miami-Dade County Public School students over 6 years. In the global upset caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Z4P shifted online, and students produced a digital publication inspired by hand-crafted zines.

These pages, each submitted by an individual student, show how young zine-makers have tackled controversial issues rarely explored through a teen lens. Like opening a door, the digital artworks offer a peek into some of the matters that weigh most on Gen Z minds, and they document the highs, lows, and triumphant resilience found in the watershed year of 2020.

This exhibition was created by South Florida high schoolers Diana Monteagudo ('21), Molly Seghi ('22), and Suzeline Jean-Baptiste ('22).

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 98 by Zion HanleyThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

The Pandemic Age

The year 2020 will live in infamy. As the world began to grapple with COVID-19, unprecedented challenges to public health, the workforce, and family shook everyday life. But despite the mental and physical tolls, we found novel ways to stay connected and persevere.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 146 by Mario Artilles MontielThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

When COVID-19 hit, comparisons to past pandemics were inevitable. Featuring a drawn image of plague doctors, Mario Artiles Montiel's zine page references one of Western history's most devastating pandemics: the Bubonic plague outbreak of the 14th century.

The swirling checkerboard graphic in the background alludes to an all-encompassing black hole of chaos. By laying out the repetitive images in a continuous sequence, this teen perhaps suggests history's cyclical nature and places disease as a chronic factor in human life.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 89 by Kayla FigueroaThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

COVID-19 reshaped social interaction, and tracking the outbreak became a numbers game.

With the red chart of new coronavirus deaths lurking in the background of this zine page, artist Kayla Figueroa has juxtaposed anonymized facts and figures with real faces—the human stories behind the statistics.

The looming illustration of the masked nurse is perhaps a nod to the outsized contributions of healthcare workers and their heroic efforts to stem the death toll.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 62 by Luiza DefreitasThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

The year 2020 was an overwhelming experience of change, challenges, uncertainty, division, and unity. The complexity of the early pandemic is exhibited here in Luiza Defreitas's collage, visually summarizing the year and encompassing a range of emotions and experiences.

Communal to personal, these photos describe a layered—and fraught—chapter in human history. Defreitas nonetheless sees hints of hope: though hate crimes and political divides reflect the country's seismic rifts, moments of love and connection shine through.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 59 by Katelyn CuellarThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Environmental Issues

We depend on Earth and its living organisms. Rising temperatures, pollution, and extinction rates have heightened awareness about the ill effects of human activity—like the flooding in Vietnam, Australian brushfires, and other catastrophes witnessed in 2020 alone.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 69 by Trevor BelloThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Piles of trash, barren trees, run-down cities—many fear that this is what Earth will become.

Trevor Bello's zine page offers a comic book-style view of our apocalyptic future if humanity continues to neglect the environment. Images and graphs about climate change fill a crystal ball at the center of the desolate and damaged land, ready to explode.

And in the right-hand corner of the artwork, a silhouette of a child overlooking the scene stands as a reminder of our collective responsibility to take care of the world for the next generation.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 24 by Larissa GomezThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Mental Health

The pandemic's incredible strain on families and individuals shook the fault lines in our mental health systems. However, the renewed focus on home life and personal perspective also destigmatized need for support, showing just how serious—and universal—these experiences can be.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 42 by Melissa DigonThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

As one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses, depression is hard to convey visually. Melissa Digon's zine page uses gray-hued images to illustrate typical symptoms—self-isolation, sleep disorders—that became common, and debilitating, standards of quarantine life.

Poetry reveals an interior world in distress, capturing feelings of being trapped and the loss of motivation or interest.

Digon's images show figures napping or wearing headphones, both habits that drown out the outside, which through the window appears as gloomy as the inside.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 21 by Julliette CamachoThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

What happens when you can't trust your own mind? Julliette Camacho's zine page illustrates the sense of being patched together, confused, and detached from your identity.

The phrase "my home is my mind," composed of cutout letters of different fonts, is laid out almost like a ransom note—the mind imaginably held hostage by displacement and a shattered self.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 78 by Ashlee AllenThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Self-doubt is self-destructive. Ashlee Allen's zine artwork interprets the inside of a brain as a cacophony of intrusive thoughts.

The repetition of phrases like "you don't have anything to be sad about" and "stop being so dramatic" demonstrates their invasive nature, with the different colors, fonts, and directions suggesting that comments are coming from both within and without.

A gray, cloudy background and a frowny-face graphic paint a stark portrait of the artist's overall state of mind.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 144 by Kim DiazThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Racism and Police Brutality

In summer 2020, anti-Black racism spurred mass protests against police violence and white supremacy. As troubling stories, images, and statistics flooded headlines, teens took to their zine pages to address the painful ripple effects of inequality in their communities.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 46 by Samantha PeltrauThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Samantha Peltrau's zine page touches upon the long history of distrust between police officers and the Black community. Collaged are poems and captions as well as images that represent the divide between authority figures and citizens.

Defining the word "disconnect" alludes to the rift between communities of color and the systems and services meant to protect them.

"Fight for us while we're alive, don't wait until we're dead," voices the frustration, and determination, of Black Americans.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 133 by Ariana MoralesThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Ariana Morales's submission depicts the familiar story of a Black woman denied equal treatment and basic decency.

The words "my house is burning but they're watering my neighbor's," suggests that the Black subject is in desperate need of government care and attention. Yet instead of coming to her aid, the state is tending to her white counterparts and assaulting a young man of color.

Meanwhile, the smiling white family in the top right corner condescendingly romanticizes their lives, proclaiming their progressiveness (in the artist's added speech bubbles) and giving a much rosier view of suburban life than that experienced by our protagonist.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 142 by Jada OlmosThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

The death of George Floyd sparked a new revolution against silencing Black communities. Jada Olmos's zine page brings to light the fact that racism is an ongoing systemic problem, and change is necessary for society to function peacefully in the future.

The intentional positioning of the figures is symbolic of looking forward with a sense of determination. The background repeats the phrase "get your knee off my neck," the words that George Floyd repeated several times before police officer Derek Chauvin killed him.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 20 by Johana FigueroaThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

The constitutional right to protest is undeniably a core American value. However, Johana Figueroa's artwork contends that the road to true change is a long one.

On top of the collage sits a notification reading, "Discard feelings? If you go back now, you will lose yourself," an indication of the perseverance needed to make protest effective.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 149 by Siana NiguidulaThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Activism and Allyship

Fighting to uphold rights in 2020 required new rules of engagement: donning masks, gathering at a distance, or finding outlets online. These teen zine-makers capture a range in displays of advocacy—expressive and fiery, quiet but continual, internal and individual.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 17 by Gail RuizThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Gail Ruiz's zine page is a call to action for women to speak up for themselves and assert control of their own bodies.

The phrase "your silence will not protect you," written in bold letters and bright colors and laid out as though shouted through a megaphone, represents the need for the feminist movement to remain loud, powerful, and persistent.

Words such as "global" hint at how the struggle is ongoing and worldwide. This teen's central message: achieving true equal rights depends on clear, strong, vocal support.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 14 by Delaura ChristieThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Delaura Christie's zine displays the power of unity in activism tactics.

Raised fists of different skin colors signal support behind a Black woman, who is depicted with a superhero quality as the face of empowerment—both her Blackness and her womanhood are sources of pride.

Behind the array of hands, illustrations of protest signs and phrases such as "human rights" and "educating and unlearning," nod to the hard path to progress and the importance of allies and community in gaining ground.

Hybrid Reality–Living History, page 75 by Aika BlockerThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Aika Blocker's zine page illustrates the unique struggle of stereotyped Black women. Ayana Mathis's centered quote, "there is a stereotype that to be a strong Black woman is to be strong about being Black," speaks to how expectations and assumptions can constrict identity.

Portraits of Black women surround the quote, along with qualities such as "strong," "talented," "independent." "What you are seen as… is not who you actually are": in order to break free from narrow labels, Blocker says, it is important to be seen as three-dimensional.

The butterflies fluttering around the artwork represent the hope and freedom found in embracing new identities.

Hybrid Reality– Living History, page 135 by Carolina DeupiThe Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Final Words

The year 2020 opened our eyes to big-picture scopes often considered beyond the grasp of the young. But these digital zine pages show teens keenly understand present-day concerns and what they mean for the future. In other words: they see the world around them in all its color.

Credits: Story

Writers: Suzeline Jean-Baptiste, Diana Monteagudo, Molly Seghi
Content Editors: Meg Floryan, Luna Goldberg, Shoshana Resnikoff
Additional Editors: Isabel Brador, Jon Mogul, Ian Rand, Marlene Tosca Hunt, Zoe Welch
Zines for Progress Directors: Luna Goldberg, Zoe Welch (2020–2021)

Zines for Progress (Z4P) is a signature program of The Wolfsonian's Discovering Design initiative, which is supported by The Batchelor Foundation; the Tamara L. Harris Foundation; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To see Hybrid Reality–Living History 2020–2021, The Wolfsonian's digital publication containing all Zines for Progress student-produced artworks from the 2020–2021 program cycle, please visit digital.wolfsonian.org.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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