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Dale Zine Miami: Mall as Community as Art
What was once a perfume stand, when the 777 International Mall on West Flagler in Downtown Miami still functioned as a shopping center, is now the first brick and mortar location of Dale Zine, a Miami-based small press that Steve Saiz and his fiancee, Lillian Banderas, have been running together since 2012. “The before and after is insane,” Saiz says of the space, which Lillian says they found in the condition it had been in when the mall closed down. Dale Zine’s new post, the zine imprint’s first offline-IRL shop, stands at the mouth of the old mall, complete with its own street-facing ventanita, where a record player and DJ stand is set up. Saiz and Banderas consider their new storefront an aesthetic homage to the perfume store that came before them: Dale displays their merchandise, mostly zines but also art prints, jewelry, and buttons, on plastic display stands, the glass cases draped in pink satin and littered with synthetic flowers, all purchased from the Valsan down the street. Lillian and Steve do not see Dale’s new post as just a magazine stand, but as the next step in connecting the Miami community to art in a more meaningful, accessible way.
In 2015, Mana Contemporary bought out the recently shuttered 777 mall and is now in the process of converting the space for art shows, offices, and galleries (Miami’s film collective Borscht also recently moved in to the mall). Molly Feingold, Director of Programs at Mana Contemporary, offered Lillian and Steve the space during Art Basel. And after their week-long residency yielded big crowds and great reviews, Mana offered them the space for an entire year.
Dale began with a single Garfield-themed zine called SUPER GREAT, which Steve put together while working at the art collective Friends With You in Miami in 2009.“It was just a thing I [thought of] at work one day. I was like, let’s just make a zine about Garfield. There were so many cool creatives in the office, and I also reached out to artists I admired on Tumblr for their art [too]. That’s why Garfield is our mascot,” Steve said, pointing to the Garfield pendulum clock sitting on Dale’s counter. (Prints of SUPER GREAT are still available on their website. ) When Lillian met Steve, Dale only included five or six titles, but Lillian urged him to start attending more zine fairs around Los Angeles, where they lived at the time. They grew a following in the art book fair scene, crediting their success to having booths at Printed-Matter-hosted NYABF and LABF, which allowed them to expand their reach and meet zine makers from around the country. “If you’re an artist in Miami, you can sometimes feel like you’re in a vacuum… like you’re just kinda entertaining yourself here,” Steve explains. “And I think it was so special to do these book fairs and get inspired and see what people we look up to are doing.”
At their brick and mortar shop, the consistently-evolving inventory ranges from kid-friendly photo zines, like Lillian’s best-selling 3-d zine, I WUFF YOU — to the absurd (one of their newer titles, Tokyo-based artist Ken Kagami’s Various Bobs, involves doodles of Spongebob Squarepants if he were anything other than a sponge) — to prints of Miami artist Eddie Arroyo’s sensual oil paintings. Their stock is thoughtfully curated and reflects a wide range of tastes, without ever seeming pretentious or, in the other direction, adventitious. Lillian and Steve are both curators by trade; Lillian works as a fashion stylist, and Steve works as an art director. “Obviously we care about quality, but we want a little bit of everything, at different times,” Lillian explains.
The new space will also allow Dale to expand their event programming, which already runs at five out of seven days of the week.* Dale also hosts a monthly art workshop at SoHo Beach House for kids and adults. “Teaching kids that they have a line, and they can follow it, is at the basis of our mission,” Lillian explains. “[We] want to teach them to follow their instincts. Not everyone has to draw a hand the same way.”
Lillian and Steve’s philosophy of zine-making as an inclusive art means they intend to grow alongside, not in reaction to, the community. “This formula, we’re fine tuning it,” says Lillian. “If Miamians are not exposed to [something], they won’t even go to it — or they’ll go like, every weekend. We want people to come every weekend, see something new, and not feel intimidated to ask about it.” Steve adds, “Your intuition is [always] the right answer.”
*Dale Zine’s next event is a Poetry Zine Workshop at Mana Contemporary’s 777 International Mall, 12-8pm, Saturday, April 21, at 141 E. Flagler St.
Christina Drill is a writer and the Production Editor of the Miami Rail.