In the early summer of 2021, Zoe Jensen and Iyanna Crockett started a new project they called “a love letter to Connecticut creators.” By September, the Connecticut locals had released the first two issues of their zine—selling out of the second issue in a single day—and gained over 700 followers on their Instagram page. You may have spied well-dressed college students sporting tote bags and stickers that bear the zine’s catchy name: Connectic*nt. With its bold design, motivated editors, and diverse team of contributors, Connectic*nt is bound to continue its upward trajectory. This week, Zoe and Iyanna spoke with The Herald about the inspiration for Connectic*nt, the process of starting an independent publication, and much more. The Herald also spoke with Maya Alicki, a Wesleyan student and contributor to Connectic*nt’s second issue. All three creators emphasized their commitment to local art and their hopes for a more inclusive and far-reaching DIY community in Connecticut.
Interview with Zoe and Iyanna (Editors of Connectic*nt Mag)
HS & MD: First, what was your inspiration for creating a zine dedicated to local voices and artists? What were some of your goals with Connectic*nt?
Zoe (she/they): “It’s been a journey. Last November, I graduated high school from Connecticut, went to film school in Southern California, missed Connecticut a lot, and came back to CT. I met so many incredible artists and people from the state, but… I just wished there was a publication where people could learn about the cool stuff happening in the area. It’s really been a love letter to Connecticut artists and the creators in the state. And just connecting people, especially from a femme and queer perspective.”
Iyanna (she/they): “I was so excited when Zoe pitched the idea to me. I loved the name –– it was so cute. I always think about how CT is squished between NYC and Boston and those are obviously spots with so many insane artists, but there’s also so much talent from CT and it was great to highlight that.”
HS & MD: We were wondering where the name ‘Connectic*nt’ originated and its significance.
Zoe: “I was just thinking of riffs on “Connecticut” because it is a Connecticut-featuring zine. I mean there’s obviously the femme aspect, but we highlight artists of all genders and sexual preferences. It is not only for femmes, but there is definitely a femme perspective. In a lot of spaces, especially music spaces, there’s a lot of male-dominated energy and I think it’s always important to be like, ‘this is what other people are seeing.’ I also thought that it would be really funny and it kind of just went from there.”
HS & MD: Did you have any inspiration from other creators?
Iyanna: I think within the past two years, a big inspiration for zines in general has been the Ankh. They’re based out of Wesleyan and so cool and well done. They featured a lot of BIPOC artists and specifically Black artists. I always thought it was so dope, even if every page didn’t have, say, Black people in it, you could just tell it was created and curated by Black people and I just loved it a lot. Being someone who is Black and seeing how art spaces can be very, very whitewashed, I always wanted to do a project like that, where you could feel it through the pages. When people go through Connectic*nt, I want them to feel who made it –– especially because we have a lot of women, women of color, people of color, and queer people. And you can honestly feel that through the pages. I love that and always wanted to do that.
HS & MD: Can you talk a bit about curating Connectic*nt: choosing themes, sorting submissions, and that sort of more technical stuff?
Zoe: The first zine was mostly people I texted. I was involved with spoken word clubs and art clubs at UConn and stuff like that so I just knew a lot of friends who were actively creating different types of art and wanted them to submit. The first one was New Beginnings because it was the beginning––we were kicking it off and seeing where it went. The second one was Duality, and we opened it up to submissions. I feel like we mostly look through it together and it’s just a lot of what we are feeling and thinking. I’m constantly obsessed with the idea of how symmetrical humans are and just nature in general and we focused a lot on the curation of what goes next to what and how does this flow into that.
Iyanna: One of my favorite parts of putting the zine together is thinking about flipping through it and the next pages. There’re definitely good pieces that didn’t fit in the right way. I never want anyone to feel that we didn’t take their pieces because they weren’t good. This time a lot of people emailed multiple pieces and we tried our best to take one piece from as many people as possible… It allowed us to hear from a bunch of different artists.
HS & MD: Connectic*nt has such a balanced mix of art for art’s sake and more social justice-oriented pieces. Was there any specific way that this came about?
Iyanna: Honestly, I don’t think we ever really told people what kinds of things to send. Peoples’ art is so entangled in their experiences. As a Black queer artist, sometimes when I’m just making something, it will come off very pro-Black. I feel like it’s been balanced nicely between things that are just pretty and things that have a deeper sort of meaning.
Zoe: I feel like it’s hard to pinpoint where you get your ideas from. Especially with articles or certain pieces that we specifically write, it comes from inspiration around us and what’s on our minds. And I think that’s what’s beautiful about the CT art scene––there are so many different types of artists from so many different perspectives and backgrounds across the state, so I feel like the ideas come from making an open submission. We try to make it as accessible as possible and that’s kind of just what happens.
HS & MD: How do you see Connectic*nt reflected in the content and curation of the zine?
Zoe: I feel like my goal at first was trying to reflect the different sorts of perspectives that were in the state. Going to UConn, there were people from rural Connecticut and people from these big cities—it was just an amalgamation of all of these different cultures around the state. We have people who message the account and say, ‘I didn’t know there was this kind of queer art community in Connecticut,’ and that’s sort of the whole point—connecting different people together and highlighting the different sorts of perspectives that are in the state.
HS & MD: What role do you feel universities play and should play in supporting local art?
Iyanna: I think they definitely have a big role to play, but I think what happens (I obviously can only speak for UConn) is that they will support artists in a certain way— as long as they are sharing a certain message that the university is comfortable with, but not as much once you step out of that. We have felt this a little with our name, being like ‘Well, this is our name. Are we going to have to change it to get support from places like universities?’ Still, I think there definitely has been a positive shift in the past couple of years in terms of supporting artists and their unfiltered messages.
HS & MD: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about
Connectic*nt Connecticunt or any advice you have for other creatives?
Iyanna: I think one of the main things that I’ve seen from being in a publication that is run by women is that people will try to not take you seriously, or try to pitch things to you that are less than you deserve, or try to just speak down to you. And for any woman artist, any queer artist, any disabled artist, any Black artist: don’t take less than you deserve. It’s just kind of crazy how people speak to younger women. The most visible art has just been so white and male-dominated and when people are trying their best to not make it that way, those who have done it in a more traditional way will try to make you think that what you are doing is not the ‘correct way.’ I just wanted to put that out there. Treat people with respect, that’s kind of it.”
Zoe: I agree. The reception has been almost incredibly positive and people are really excited about it. It’s overwhelming and beautiful, but there have definitely been creators who will not take relatively young femme artists seriously. And I think, unfortunately, it’s just a development in the art world that has to happen. Art should be accessible. It’s more exciting when you have more perspectives at the table and more people creating art. It’s important to stick up for yourself and other creatives and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do with Connecticunt. I urge everyone to reach out, and contribute, and get involved. Connecticunt is supposed to be an accessible medium for everyone, whether they are a university student or a long-term resident. It’s just a medium that is supposed to uplift and celebrate people who live in the state and connect people.
Iyanna: Connecticunt is for everyone.
Zoe:It’s for the people.
Interview with Maya (contributing artist)
HS & MD: How did you first hear about Connecticunt?
Maya: It was kinda a funny story. My brother was telling me about the zine because his girlfriend and her friend started it and he told me it would be a fun opportunity to try out!
HS & MD: Have you contributed artwork to similar projects before?
Maya: No, I haven’t! I don’t know about other zines nearby that are locally focused, so I was really excited to contribute.
HS & MD: How did your attitude towards your art and towards yourself as an artist change as a result of your work being published?
Maya: I was a little nervous when submitting. I contributed to the second edition and I knew more people would see it, which made me a little nervous. But I felt excited for the opportunity for people to see my stuff.
HS & MD: How did you interpret the theme of this issue (Duality) and reflect it in your piece?
Maya: I knew I wanted to make a collage, or paint something—definitely something visual. At first, I made a collage that had to do with a theme but they didn’t end up taking that one. It was okay because I ended up submitting a self-portrait that I watercolored. For this painting, at first, my idea was to do a reflection of my face, sorta like the project people do in elementary school. But once I sketched out half of my face, I liked how it looked, so I just kept rolling with it and painted the whole thing. So the project kinda ended up turning into a reflection of myself- showing how I see myself.
HS & MD: What is your relationship to CT? How did you get involved with the art scene here?
Maya: I’ve lived in Connecticut my entire life and I love going to local art events! Living in Middletown, I know we have a really great art scene and New Haven has that kind of close-knit art community too. I feel really grateful to have grown up around such great art. When I was a kid, my mom would sign me up for the Middletown Children’s Circus, which helped introduce me to a bunch of other kids events that operated through Kid City, the Middletown children’s museum.
There is always something to be said about the beauty and importance of local art, yet Connecticunt extends this even further. What these two femme artists have done is create local art dedicated to local art. They have taken all of Connecticut’s charm and put it on display, showcasing the voices of those who are all too often excluded from popular dialogue. Connecticunt is Connecticut, in all of its messy and glamorous and cracked and torn (and sometimes vulgar) glory. It never falls short of embodying a divinely feminine spirit, while still making it clear that everyone is welcome between its pages. Wherever you go, there will always be people creating and fostering inclusive spaces for creativity, collaboration, and community. These people are the foundation on which a community is built; their importance cannot be overstated. Support them. Cherish them. And when you are ready, join them. If they are anything like Zoe and Iyanna, they will welcome you with open arms.
Connecticunt Mag can be found on instagram: @connectic_nt. They welcome interaction, submissions, and you can preorder their third issue via Instagram DM. (It is halloween themed; Zoe said it will be “absolutely bonkers!”)
Hannah Szabó (she/her)
Madelyn Dawson (she/her) @behindthesunzine