Branching from the UCSB English Department, a new student-run literary arts magazine called The Catalyst made its debut with a launch party hosted at the Isla Vista Food Co-op on Thursday.
Featuring live music by electronic music artist Cub’b and folk-rock band Helo, Thursday’s event also showcased live readings from the first issue of The Catalyst, free copies of the magazine and an art walk displaying student talent. In its first issue, the interdisciplinary publication features pieces of creative prose, poetry and academic research, as well as a collection of meditative essays and creative nonfiction, all of which are juxtaposed against vibrant clippings of visual art and photography. Sponsored by the Arnhold Undergraduate Research Fellows Program and Associated Students Finance Board, The Catalyst is a collaborative effort of some 38 students and six faculty advisors.
The magazine derives its name from an early 1990s university publication under College of Creative Studies art professor Harry Reese. Editor-in-Chief Natalie O’Brien, a third-year English major, said the current magazine is a “revitalized version” of Reese’s Catalyst in the sense that the new incarnation has allowed students to collaborate on projects incorporating multiple forms of art media. According to O’Brien, although The Catalyst originated from the English department’s university-made publication, her student-run magazine marks a “new era” in its collaborative nature.
“It was completely re-envisioned as an art and literary magazine,” O’Brien said. “We are trying to pay equal attention to the visual aspect and using visuals and the writing to play off of each other.”
O’Brien also said the new publication’s early success comes partially from the help of English professor and magazine advisor Candace Waid, who introduced her to the old publication. When O’Brien was first looking to start a collaborative art and literature club, Waid offered guidance in gathering up the talent and work to begin work on The Catalyst last spring.
“Professor Waid really helped get a community together,” O’Brien said. “We’ve rounded people up and hit it harder, and we have so many people this quarter.”
Second-year art history major and contributing photographer Morey Spellman said he was excited about being featured in the new magazine and plans on submitting more of his work for future issues.
“It’s a really great honor to see your work in print or digital form. It helps to get notoriety and [get] out there,” Spellman said. “I think they did a really good job … someone actually wrote a poem based on one of my photos, which was really interesting.”
Vijay Masharani, a first-year art major and magazine contributor, had his work “Suburbs” — a visual art piece about suburban identity — displayed at the launch party art walk. Masharani said he enjoyed working with O’Brien and said The Catalyst allows students like himself to use the publication as an outlet for creative, interpersonal expression. Discussing his piece, Masharani said “Suburbs” takes a look at the monotonous aspect of suburbia and its lack of individual identities within.
“[My work] was inspired by the houses in my neighborhood,” Masharani said. “When everything looks the same, people tend to lose their identity, so they aren’t individuals.”
By the end of Thursday night, attendees picked up over 350 copies of first issue, which is already half the original shipment. Copies are available to pick up for free at the I.V. Food Co-op and the English Department building on campus.
Assistant News Editor Peter Mounteer contributed to this report.
Photos by Cameryn Brock / Daily Nexus
A version of this story appeared on page one of Monday, January 3, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.