We always love when members of our crew pursue personal projects or are investing in themselves and our community in different ways. One that has grown out of a friendship between writer Angela Zonunpari and former FP designer Hanna Peterson is a thoughtful art publication called No Business Magazine. Angela shares details of her experience self-publishing a zine on art and culture and how this collaborative effort came about.
Bailey: You’ve been in the arts world for quite some time, especially over in New York before coming to Sioux Falls. What sparked your initial interest in the arts and what’s kept you driven?
Angela: I moved to the United States in 2013 after having worked at a newspaper in India for a while. That’s when I was getting really curious about art writing and coverage on art, so that pushed me to apply for a Master’s in arts journalism. I was already in print journalism and had a TV journalism background—I was just really interested in telling stories. So what happened with my program at Syracuse University is that it opened up this whole new world of something that in India I had no knowledge of, like Western art history and contemporary art. So it was interesting to learn about that. And then when I moved to New York City, I got to see the nonprofit world of a museum and its functioning. But I also got to see the art market and the sales side of it so those influenced me to say, “Okay, this is something I want to continue doing, but maybe the art market side is not for me.” I get that there’s value in that but I was more curious about what I could do with my skills at a community level.
So I’m grateful to be at Fresh Produce and working with Ipso Gallery. It’s helped me meet so many artists and be even more confident about what I do and what I know and helps me engage with more organizations here. So yeah, I think art and community are the two things that really drive me.
Why don’t you give us a wrap up of what No Business Magazine is and how you founded it, how it came to be?
So I’ll give you the long-winded story. I went to school for arts journalism and I was working in all these arts nonprofits. And for a really long time, I wanted to do a publication but I didn’t know how to do it. Basically, I just didn’t know where to start and I was really intimidated by the process. And the more I thought about it, I kept building websites and thinking “Okay, this is the way to go. It’ll be a website.” But when we moved to Sioux Falls, I got a job at Fresh Produce and Ipso really pushed me to be like “This could grow into a printed piece.” So I actually started off with something called Sound and Color in 2017. And I produced that with my partner, Eli [Show]. Basically, it was a printed piece that would support the Ipso artist that was showing at the time. So we did three of those. And it became really concept-based and concept-driven. We played off the artists that were showing and it was really fun. But being in the same house and working with your partner and having a newborn, time management got complicated, so we paused.
“I think we’re in this world where we go to art events a lot, and you don’t get to spend a lot of time with the artist, so No Business just wants to ask people to dig a little deeper or, even for people who maybe are intimidated, to approach art ideas.”
Hanna Peterson, who was working at Fresh Produce at the time, and I got really close and I started sharing my ideas with her. No Business Magazine came to my head just because of the motivations and the intention behind the whole publication. So Hanna and I partnered up at the end of 2018 and started working on the first issue called Identity. A lot of Identity grew out of Sound and Color. The approach was again a heavy concept-based playoff of artists, except they were themed and involved more people. So the name No Business Magazine came out of the conversations we were having and I think a lot of it was getting driven by ownership of art.
I was in the art auction world for a bit and I didn’t care for the culture of how conversations were lead by business so I chose not to focus on that and instead lift up ideas, which is a concept heavily supported by Fresh Produce and Ipso. So that was really motivating to focus on ideas and lift up all the knowledge that artists have in art-making. So yeah, now we’re two issues in, and it’s been a lot of fun.
Tell us a little bit more about your partner, Hanna, and the roles you each contribute to the publication.
As I mentioned, Hanna used to work at Fresh Produce. She was a graphic designer here. She moved to Minneapolis and was working remotely for a while but now she works for an agency there called Latitude. She’s a really amazing person and we really hit it off on a lot of different levels — interest and aesthetic — and just what we wanted to do outside of work. So that partnership really works out because there’s a lot of trust there. Before Hanna jumped on, I had the three issues themed out and some of the artists already listed so I shared all of those ideas with her and we started talking about what the written pieces could be and she drew inspiration from that.
I would say both of us play art director and creative director type roles where we work really closely and share information and things that resonate from certain artists and from there it just kind of grows organically.
“Forming connections and being able to talk to and learn from people who inspire us, I think that’s the goal right now.”
No Business Magazine features a lot of different artists and a wide variety of people. So as you pull those people in, what do you look for? How do you curate and figure out who’s going to be featured in the magazine?
Yeah, so initially we played off people we were really curious about and when we started listing those people, we found a theme to base the whole issue on so people have an idea of what to expect going in. Our first publication focused on how artists deal with their identity and was really diverse from photographers to painters. So there’s a lot of freedom in how we curate but always a very light underscoring throughout. I’d say most of the issues are based on people we’re really curious about and then we curate them into these groups to see how it could come about in a printed issue.
How do you communicate with artists that you’re interested in working with? What does that initial relationship look like?
I’d say we usually have a buffer. We’ll reach out to our selection and in most cases, the majority of the people we’ve never met or interacted with. We’ve just observed them either on Instagram or we’ve seen their work somewhere. There’s a lot of chance in our communication but I think it’s given us a lot of confidence to talk about our vision clearly so it’s easy to approach people. I would say 99.9% of the people we’ve approached have said yes, even though it’s our first or second interaction with them. It’s really special! We’re very intentional about how we communicate our vision for the issue and are specific about why we’re interested in their work and where we envision them in issue.
And about how long does the whole process take?
I want to say about a year from start to finish. Maybe a little over a year. The first two issues kind of overlapped because we were working on the first issue while the idea of the second issue got pulled into a curated exhibition. We don’t have strict timelines on things, just because we both work full-time and we really consider it as creating an art object. We want to enjoy the process because it’s something we do for ourselves so anytime someone’s feeling pressured, we pause for a bit. It’s nice that way, especially with Hanna and I being the only two members producing everything. We have a lot of support from Amy Jarding, and Eli. But once that production gets really heavy, it’s the two of us.
How do you go about narrowing themes and deciding what goes into the magazine? How do you decide which direction you want to take it in?
I think it’s something that comes out of what we’re really curious about or things we like, whether it’s design-wise or writing-wise, that we really want to do but maybe haven’t had a chance to. With the first issue, I had the idea in mind because identity is something really close to me so it was a natural fit. And then creating that roster of artists, I have this thing that I do on Instagram, so if I see artists I really like, I start bookmarking them and saving them to my account. Then I go back through and start curating those buckets.
The second issue was kind of funny because the idea came during a really fascinating moment when we had Amanda Smith, who’s in Power Colors, and her partner, Josh, visit during Thanksgiving. My son, Forrest, was really little and he handed Amanda a pink and green crayon and Josh said, “Amanda, he knows your power colors.” They explained that Amanda’s work at that time was really focused around those two shades, so that’s how I came up with the name Power Colors for our second issue.
What type of perspective would you say No Business Magazine gives the people who read it?
I think from a design perspective, we really want to lift up print first, and interactivity and tactility. That’s kind of our goal and just holding people longer, even if they are interacting with the printed material. And then on the writing and art writing side of it, we really want to be intentional about giving artists space to talk about their work, even if it’s just process or practice or an idea behind a body of work. And just like us, focusing on the intrinsic value of our artists and all the knowledge that they hold. I think we’re in this world where we go to art events a lot, and you don’t get to spend a lot of time with the artist, so No Business just wants to ask people to dig a little deeper or, even for people who maybe are intimidated, to approach art ideas.
What do your plans look like for the next publication?
The third issue is going to be something that I’ve been really curious about. It’s like art in digital and tech spaces. So it most probably won’t be a printed issue. We want to develop a full website for it, so we’re switching things up. We’re still hoping to bring in all the layers and interactivity of a printed No Biz Mag.
That’s exciting! So jumping off of that, what do you hope to grow No Business Magazine into? What does that future vision for the publication look like?
I don’t think we’ve quite decided yet. You know, I think for Hanna, and I am speaking for Hanna, but I think it’s kind of become an art practice we’re creating. I want to say an art object, it’s not mass-produced, there’s a lot of labor involved, there’s a lot of like, physical hand labor involved. There’s a lot of time and energy outside of work and regular life that we put into it. So it feels like an art practice, like an art object. So maybe growing as art publishers. That could be an interesting route where we help other artists publish their work. Forming connections and being able to talk to and learn from people who inspire us, I think that’s the goal right now.
To learn more about No Business Magazine, visit nobusinessmagazine.com or follow along @nobizmag on Instagram.