Spotlight on The Soapbox, an independent publishing center

[Dre zeroes in on a community publishing center that gives locals the resources to design, print, and distribute their ideas. She also names a few local zine libraries–a relative rarity in which Philadelphia is rich. — the Artblog editors]

When The Soapbox’s cofounders Mary Tasillo and Charlene Kwon met at West Philly staple the Satellite Cafe, the seed of the idea of having a community-based print shop and publishing center was planted. The two had been put in touch by Jude Robison of the Philadelphia Center for the Book, back in 2009. Following strong intuitive energies, Tasillo and Kwon decided to buy a house together, just one block away from the Satellite at 51st Street and Baltimore Avenue, for their nonprofit community print shop.

Seeds of The Soapbox

Building facade
Street View of The Soapbox’s current headquarters.

The print shop sprouted from the house’s first floor in March of 2011. Since then, The Soapbox has bloomed into an organization and community center, which provides accommodations for many local and traveling artists, writers, and activists. The space includes resources such as a silkscreening and letterpress studio, a large printer, and a growing zine library.

Library collection
Zine Library shelfie.

A zine is a self-published booklet on any topic of the author’s choosing. These booklets are printed in small numbers and are unsupported by the mainstream media, such as most bookstores. The main way people get zines is from the authors themselves!

How to make and find local zines

Letter press
Type on the sign-maker press.

The zine library at The Soapbox welcomes anyone who is interested; it is open every first and third Sunday of the month. Public zine libraries are very rare, and there are only a handful of them in our country. Luckily, here in Philadelphia, there are a number of zine libraries, including one in the Special Collections Research Center at Temple University, which was donated by The ArtBlog’s weekly cartoonist, Beth Heinly. This starter collection of zines for the Special Collections Research Center was from the zine library of Little Berlin, which Heinly started in 2009 with the help from other members. Little Berlin began a new zine library collection in 2014; it’s located in the Annex at their space in the Viking Mill in Kensington.

The Soapbox’s Zine Library filled with participants of the Eat Your Words Edible Books and Prints event.

Recently, The Soapbox exhibited members’ works on paper at the Philadelphia Art Book Fair alongside likeminded organizations, small presses, and artists like Andrew Jeffrey Wright. The group recently held an event where participants were encouraged to make prints on burrito wraps–it was called Eat Your Words Edible Books and Prints, and it published a zine called Eat Your Words Zine. The Soapbox hopes to exhibit at Philalaliaand it always participates in Philly Zine Fest, which will be held on August 30 at the Rotunda this year.

Book binding class
Tasillo teaching the Long Stitch Book Binding Workshop.

Upcoming workshops

The Soapbox will be housing a handful of workshops this summer, ranging from bookbinding, writing, and paper-making to social action. Their online calendar has a list of upcoming workshops, such as “Writers’ Afternoon: A Laid-Back Radical Writing Workshop” and “Pulp to Paper, Print to Book”.

Printing at The Soapbox.

The organization is in the early stages of planning to move into a bigger, more accessible space. They are outgrowing the house, and they are looking for a warehouse to move their operations. The Soapbox is looking for founding keyholder members who would have 24-hour access to letterpress, screenprinting, relief-printing, digital printing, and bookmaking materials in exchange for a monthly contribution to the space. They are also looking for community partnerships that could help make this a reality. As The Soapbox branches out, they want feedback from the general public. They are hosting an online survey to find out what you think.

Dre Grigoropol is an active Philly-based artist, cartoonist, writer, blogger, and musician. You can follow Dre’s work at, and on Twitter @DretimeComics.