Those in the Honors community may be familiar with the Humanities and Arts Collective (HArCo) from living in Buckley or from receiving an obligatory “Honors Events” email whenever they release an issue of HArCo Zine, but many students have never even heard of them. For the past couple years, this club has provided Honors students with an outlet to be creative, as well as validation for those in the humanities who struggle in UConn’s STEM-centric learning environment.
Miranda Garcia, a seventh-semester political science major, joined HArCo her freshman year and was disappointed at how small the group’s regular attendance was.
“I thought the mission of the group was important, but I thought there needed to be something consistent that kept members interested and engaged throughout the semester,” Garcia said in an email. “The focus of the group is humanities and arts, but the ‘art’ aspect was lacking a bit and I was honestly looking for a creative outlet for myself, so I proposed creating a zine.”
Garcia wanted the zine to be something collaborative. Her main hope was for students to foster community in HArCo by creating something together, increasing meeting attendance and achieving the group’s goal of promoting the arts and humanities. The zine now has three published editions.
“Other folks who have joined the group since then [the first issue] have also had some really great ideas and I like that we have little traditions, like dorm-friendly recipes and a themed playlist, that we include in every issue now,” Garcia said.
Mia Ruefenacht, a third-semester art major, has been a major contributor to the zine since they joined fall of their freshman year. They even designed the cover art to the latest edition of the zine, which was conspiracy theory themed (as opposed to its seasonal predecessors).
“My cover art came from that classic image of the conspiracy theorist with their corkboard full of red lines connecting images and articles,” Ruefenacht said in an email. “As a little twist on that, I thought it would be fun if the images tore away in a line to reveal that classic symbol of the Illuminati, the eye in the triangle. Perhaps this particular theorist has gotten a little too close to the truth.”
The conspiracy theory theme stemmed from an inside joke within HArCo.
“We have a joke that HArCo is really HArCoCo, the humanities, arts, and conspiracy collective,” Ruefenacht said. “I don’t know how it originated, but conspiracy theories and the paranormal are just something we find interesting as a club and we talk about frequently. We’ve developed this whole kind of loose mythology around our conspiracy theories related to the university. So I think it was inevitable that we would eventually create a zine around this topic.”
Ruefenacht’s cover art was done in gouache paint, an opaque type of watercolor, but it was first sketched, redrawn and later tweaked in Photoshop. Their use of dark colors and extremely detailed images, matched the eerie magazine cutout font for the title and set the tone for a magazine of silly, spooky theories.
“It took a lot of time to create all the little images that make up this painting, but it was quite fun to put in a lot of little references and easter eggs,” Ruefenacht said.
Ruefenacht’s art was featured elsewhere in the zine, in addition to the cover art. Many of their creations were made for fun and were only added to the zine after the fact. They also wrote some pieces for the zine, including “A Brief History of HArCo,” which drew from the ideas of other members of HArCo. This history is a hilarious piece of fiction which combines every touchstone of conspiracy theories from an origin as a “religious commune founded by ex-freemasons” to a presidential assassination plot.
The zine uses a combination of creative writing pieces, like conspiracies or poems, with artwork and interesting page design. Ruefenacht explained that all the final pages, which are designed either by HArCo members or the producers of the piece being featured on any specific page, are created on the website Canva.
Ava Kovlakas, a fifth-semester anthropology major, is also a contributor to the zine, as well as a member of HArCo’s e-board. Unlike Ruefenacht, Kovlakas has mainly submitted digital and black and white darkroom film photography, in addition to help design pages. She said she used to create art before college, but hadn’t found the time to since she’s not a fine arts major.
“Seeing others contribute to HArCo Zine has been inspiring me to pick up my brushes and charcoal again, so hopefully in the future I’ll be able to submit more,” Kovlakas said in an email.
In fact, Kovlakas considers HArCo Zine’s main function as inspiring members of the Honors community to be creative. She said since there aren’t many humanities majors in the Honors community, especially within the fine arts, it’s as if Honors is trying to tell students the arts don’t matter.
“Because we have this opportunity with support from the Honors program to do some self-publication, I think a lot of people like me who started to feel like their passions were invisible, as well as others who might not have recognized how many arts-oriented people there are in the community, will start to see their value,” Kovlakas said.
While the recent edition of HArCo Zine didn’t receive many outside submissions, submissions are welcomed from anyone in the Honors community, regardless of year or major. The zine is an incredibly fun read, and it’s clear from its members and the silliness of its content that it was equally fun to make. Kovlakas encourages students to get involved with HArCo, which will be meeting next semester on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Buckley Classroom, or to keep an eye out for submission deadlines for next semester.
“Next semester, we want to start putting calls out for submissions early and set dates for finalizing the issue later, so that Honors students will have more time to create —especially if they want to stick to a theme— and have the opportunity to design their own pages how they would prefer, rather than leaving it up to us,” Kovlakas said.
So if you’re in honors and looking for either a creative outlet or a community to join, you may find the perfect club in HArCo, or, alternatively, a great zine to read while you procrastinate on studying for finals.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.