In her three years as an intern, and then gallery assistant at Old City art gallery Arch Enemy Arts, Zoe Rayn remembers working First Fridays and usually being the only brown person in the room.
Despite her appreciation for Philadelphia’s thriving black, brown and queer art spaces, Rayn said she found it problematic that artists who are celebrated in their own communities seldom found the same recognition within the city’s mainstream art scene.
But, in the schism between minority galleries and the larger art arena, Rayn also saw an opportunity: to create an inclusive space that offered all demographics equal exhibition time.
In February, after two years of pre-production, her idea went live. She published her first edition of Caldera Magazine. It sold out.
A quarterly arts and literary magazine dedicated to featuring the work of LGBTQIA and POC artists and creatives, Caldera is the newest publication to come off Philadelphia’s independent presses. Available for free online, or in print for $16 a copy, Caldera uses each issue to explore a socially significant theme.
The first issue, entitled “45,” offered the artistic reactions of six creatives, through essay, poetry, rap and art, to the election of Donald Trump.
The idea came from home. Rayn’s roommate, Carlos Castro-Miranda, is an immigrant who, under the Trump administration, grappled with the consequences of the DACA repeal. His essay chronicling the experience is one of the first issue’s six feature stories.
“Carlos is my best friend and we lived together, so I could see firsthand what he was going through post-Trump, because it was very real for some people in this country” Rayn said. “I decided to see if that was a theme that other artists and creatives in the POC and queer communities wanted to explore, and they did, of course.”
Rayn’s readership was equally interested in “45.” Her first issue sold out at both Arch Enemy Arts and Queen Village shop Yowee, its two storefront locations.
For the second issue, which came out July 10, Rayn expanded her artist lineup to 12 for an exploration of gender and sexuality. She said she’s excited for the contrasting content this issue produced, and happy it came from a more-celebratory place.
“It’s interesting, because the issue has a mix of straight POC artists, mainly female, expressing their experiences,” Rayn said. “Then there are photographers like Marcus Branch, who has a very delicate take on highlighting brown, queer men in softer, non-intimidating styles. And there’s another photographer named Cecil Shang Whaley, who does film photography that’s a lot more grungy and a part of the alt-queer community.”
To promote Caldera through its first year, Rayn also teamed up with Ox Coffee for a summer-long residency she’s using to host a series of bimonthly, free events in the café’s backyard. To date, her programming has included a poetry reading, a panel discussion featuring Streets Dept’s Conrad Benner and art-making workshops intended for children, but which have proved irresistible to millenial crowds.
A second poetry reading, with magazine-featured poet Samya Abu-Orf, took place July 22.
As Caldera continues to print and grow, Rayn said she hopes the magazine can be the catalyst for a more-evolved gallery landscape, one where artwork by queer and POC artists is no longer a novelty.
“I want there to be a platform of honest representation, not be doing the, ‘We’re going to invite one brown or one queer artist,’ because that’s enough,” Rayn said. “I want my space to be doing that all day, every day, and not be trying to make the artists’ work more digestible to a white audience.”