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Community Highlights: Meet Sara Ghassemzadeh and Bergen Flom

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sara Ghassemzadeh and Bergen Flom.

Hi Sara and Bergen, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
We began running TRASH MAG in the fall of 2017. When we, Sara and Bergen, had just met each other in college, we both felt lack in a creative community and felt alone. We became quick friends with the same vision of how the future can be different. With the authentic DIY ethos, we started collecting submissions for a print zine and organizing a backyard show for the release. That immediately made our lives feel more exciting. We wanted the platform to be for underground and underrepresented artists, as there is a blatant problem with mainstream media and art spaces. We wanted to create a home for people left out — whether it be related to their identity circumstances and/or economic status. The zine is designed for artists to feel supported, celebrated, and heard because we believe that radical empathy leads to real change. It started with a zine primarily including our friends to full-size magazines including submissions from all over the world. Our events started in a backyard, but now we have built relationships with venues in LA like The Smell, Junior High, and Nous Tous. We have been able to host events in other cities as well, from SoCal to the Bay Area and other states like Minnesota, Texas, Michigan. It’s become much bigger than what we imagined in 2017, we have the most amazing team to collaborate with and over the past two and half years, we have released nine zines and hosted at least 25 events with thousands of beloved attendees.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It’s definitely not been a smooth road. The biggest struggle is time management and burnout. Both of us are college students, working multiple jobs, living in different cities now. It’s difficult just trying to schedule a time to meet and crank out the zine or other content. There have been times we’ve bit off more than we can chew, but that’s just who we are, we’re ambitious and care and want to do the most always. It’s also been interesting seeing how we can translate this passion project into a tangible way to support ourselves and our team into the future. As of right now, we are completely volunteer run. We want to compensate ourselves and others because this takes work, time and resources. This pandemic has prevented us from hosting events, which has affected a crucial aspect of the zine. We love designing events and ensuring our community has a physical space to go to. There is magic in seeing artists create and bring their work together. Hopefully, when the pandemic has ceased, we can host a big party and hug everyone again.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
TRASH MAG was founded on the principle of inclusivity and providing a platform for marginalized artists. We are a media organization that prioritizes the artist and redistributes resources back into the community. As young, queer women ourselves, we found solace in the DIY ethos and creating a platform where underrepresented artists are the most celebrated and not waiting for anyone else to make it for us. We carry out our mission through our print and digital zine, community events, digital presence and merchandise. Our zine features people from all over the world from different life experiences and perspectives. Our blog highlights various musicians, artists, and niche cultures. Our events feature music and art, but also poetry, dance, tattoo artists, and other organizations that aligned with our goal. Our merch features art by team members and people in the community. Whatever we do, we strive to make it diverse in content and raw with emotion. We value uncensored and vulnerable narratives. Part of the solution to the problem at hand is making sure there are no limits or rules to what people can offer.

What are your plans for the future?
The pandemic has forced us to expand our digital content, so this last year we created the website and blog. We are constantly looking for new avenues of creation for the organization. We expanded our team of contributors and planned to keep doing so! We take pitches on a rolling basis for new ideas, articles, and interviews — more information on that can be found on our Instagram and website. At the moment, we’re working on turning our series, We Skate Too, by Holly Alvarado, into a print zine. We have new merch in the works as well, so you can sport a hat or something soon. You can watch out for new video and audio content in the form of YouTube videos and a podcast! In terms of big changes, we’re in the process of figuring out how to take the organization into the future as our full-time jobs. Finances are a bitch.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

All photos by Jon Del Real

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