• Janmariz Deguia

ABFA Zine: Art with impact

ABFA: A Breath of Fresh Air. An art collective focused on connection and gratitude. We interviewed the founder and chief editor of this beautiful zine, Anoushka Desgupta, to learn more about this talented community.

Art and Wellness, Art as coping

How do you believe art and wellness fit together? art as a coping mechanism or means of expression?

For me and many others, it's art. Art helps us cope, learn, explore, and connect with ourselves and our environments. One of our collaborators, Art With Impact, discusses the idea of building confidence and strengthening our power through different forms of media. By diving into our creativity and allowing ourselves to freely express our emotions, there is a release. There is authenticity, but as Anoushka states there is also perfectionism and insecurity. With practice, art helps us unlearn our need for perfection in product and learn the appreciation for the process and progress.

Anoushka sees art as a way to cope and process emotions/feelings/trauma in one's life and a way for "people to be as vulnerable and raw and graphic as they need to be if they don’t think they have any other outlet." She tells us about how she uses art herself, "When trying to process something I'm feeling, the first thing I do is write a poem about it. Then, after I have a little more understanding of what I’m feeling, and I’ve talked it out/written about it enough, I usually make some form of visual art about it. With each form of art, I’m getting my emotions onto paper, and getting my emotions onto paper makes them tangible—clearer to me. The process forces me to think through the emotions enough so that I can express them onto paper" She journals, which is another suggested and effective coping mechanism. So if art isn't your forte, maybe writing is!

She continues to say, "Once I’ve learnt from an experience/reflection, I love to make art about it. I want to memorialize my growth, and how beautiful it is that I can reflect and grow from adversity."

We asked, What inspired you to start abfa zine?

ABFA started in January of 2020 as an art collective on Discord. By the summer, 1500 people had joined this online community of artists. Anoushka shares, "We’d share our art, inspirations, tips, advice, etc everyday. We’d critique each other’s works, update each other about our days, call each other over the phone, etc; it was a very positive, inclusive, and uplifting community. 2020 was very stressful for me, as it probably was for everyone, due to the pandemic, physical quarantining, and also junior year of high school. So, this community was the thing I looked forward to in my day. I was motivated to get through my school work, and piano practice, and whatever else I had to do, just so I could work on something Art-Collective-related: talk to my friends there, etc. On a busy/stressful day, the online community was like a breath of fresh air. (You can see where we got the zine title from)."

After a suggestion from her friend, Micah, to create a magazine out of it, Anoushka knew what she had to do, "I had always dreamed of working on a big collaborative project with other creatives, bouncing ideas off each other, etc, that’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I thought it’d be perfect for the community zine to parallel the community’s positive impact on me. So, I reflected on how the zine had helped me."

From the start she knew her magazine would be dedicated to appreciating the positive things that can get us through a rough day. She says "for me, it was our online community, but for others, it could be a chocolate chip cookie, a pretty flower they saw, etc. I think it’s uplifting to look through what makes people happy. It reminds you of life’s beauties that we can take for granted, and I wanted above all for the magazine to leave its reader feeling inspired and like they’re going to be okay."

A respectable and inspirational start thats leads us to the magazine you can read today. Let's get into the mag...

a breath of fresh air zine asks 16 artists,

"What makes you feel at peace, alive, or grateful to be alive?"

There is a heart-felt answer along with each art piece constructed in a full conversation around the artist. These "conversations with the artist" lets the reader connect with the creation and the creator, and the story behind it all! They explore the effect of different influences on a person's work, ask artists about their process, and their experiences. Anoushka herself stated about one of her submissions, "I’ve delved into my mental health struggles through art. Perfectionism has been one of them, but also other mental health struggles I’ve faced."

The zine is so devoted to storytelling and centering the conversation of wellness. They have an open submission on their website for your answer to this question of What brings you joy, peace, or gratitude?

Before we get into that, did I mention each interview ended with the question "What is something that made you smile this week?" Anoushka tells us that the reason this section came to be was that AFBA believed that "it was a really lovely way that we could have our audience contribute to our project in the same way our artists did—telling us what makes them feel at peace, alive, or grateful to be alive—but in a much quicker and easier way that is feasible for people just scrolling through our website."

With that being said, reminder that we have open submissions for our positivity page. You're able to leave a kind note to a stranger to view on our site or take a look for yourself.

But now to answer the question of What brings you joy, peace, or gratitude?" myself. Artists sometimes feel the need for our work to have a “deeper,” or more profound, meaning to make it more valuable. With music, with visual art, with dance, with it all; it sometimes doesn't feel like it could ever be enough. Though there is no need for a deeper meaning, many times, artists are skeptical to share their work on Project Calendula's Art Gallery in fear of just this(but we just want to celebrate art related to one's mental health journey!).

As someone who struggles with this need to fulfill higher expectations rather than just enjoy myself, I decided to make a "chaos wall" in my room. On my wall, I do my best to combat these urges for greatness, and I have no desire for it to look great anymore and that brings me peace. I listen to music, I paint with my fingers or just one brush, and I let the negativity go. Which goes to prove, art is inherently intertwined with wellness; Art is healing, joyful, and calming.

I hope it makes sense that my favorite answers in the ABFA magazine comes from Mirai, who says "Not really. I just want to make people happy with my drawings. Showcasing the daily life of people, doing random stuff — I’m happy with that."

I asked Anoushka, What's the most challenging part of managing ABFA and how have you overcome this?

As someone who also managed a youth-led team, I was interested to see if Anoushka and I shared similar struggles. She revealed the answer is absolutely—especially in management and accountability:

"Organizing and holding people accountable for their work online was the most challenging part—to get contributing artists to check their emails, respond to our messages and questions, finish their work on time, attend our weekly meetings was a lot of effort and coordination on my end. It’s hard to hold each other accountable because we don’t see each other in real life, and we don’t have any financial dependency on the project. It’s not our career, it’s just a passion project. People don’t need to hold themselves accountable for it. So, we had to make the project exciting enough to where people would hold themselves accountable anyway—simply out of passion for the project...We’re all students and trying to manage a global initiative & business, and it’s the first time we’ve ever done that before. It was challenging.

Lastly, I asked Anoushka, “What are you most proud of in your initiative?”

Just like Project Calendula, Anoushka pushes past these obstacles, as our work is truly rewarding and beautiful. She proudly states that she is most proud of the initiative’s global aspect and universality: “We were able to get strangers—from around the world, who we would never meet in real life—to care enough about our project, idea, and community to join and contribute to the community, dedicating their time, effort, and energy. And all of this through nothing but Tiktoks! It's pretty amazing that we were able to do that. I’m most proud of how we were able to rally people from around the world to come together, online, during a pandemic, to create something beautiful together.

As well as our project, I’m also really proud of the community itself. Again, I got people to join our community by advertising them through tiktoks. But once they were on the server, we hosted community events and art challenges, nightly art chat phone calls—everyone put a good amount of effort into it. And we were able to form a global community; we formed real connections and friendships through it. I think especially through a pandemic, and the fact that this was global, I think that’s quite special." and I agree.

The art on here is absolutely phenomenal, so I guess you just have to check it out yourself. To order a lovely print copy to cherish the art and the wonderful artists's responses, click here:

If you'd like to submit your artwork to Project Calendula's website, click here:

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