June 8, 2021 By Caroline Challe, cfc8ev@virginia.edu

Magic in Print: Two Students Make Art, Fashion Come Alive

V Magazine gave student artists a way to express themselves without boundaries – in a year full of them.

Vibrant colors, electric images, stories bubbling with creativity – these are just a few elements of V Magazine, a student-run publication dedicated to the arts community at the University of Virginia.

Co-editors-in-chief Christina Hara and André Hirschler, both May graduates, focused on making the publication an expressive platform for UVA’s most creative students. The spring 2021 issue featured art in a variety of forms, from poetry to photography to creative writing.

“In my mind, we’re helping people gain confidence in their creative work where they wouldn’t really have a space to do that elsewhere, and to have that confidence boost that comes from being published,” Hirschler said. 

Hara stumbled upon V Magazine after transferring to UVA in the fall of her third year and was drawn to the platform and the community around the magazine, which was founded in 2005. “I wanted to find a new way to get involved on Grounds, and especially with something creative on Grounds. I found V Magazine, and it sounded like something like right up my alley, and I’m so glad that I joined,” she said.

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Student artist Vibha Vijay created this colorful collage. (Images courtesy V Magazine)

Many students said they share Hara’s gratitude for V Magazine and the artistic community that it represents. 

“I’ve talked to several people who have told Christina and I that when they saw V Magazine, it was really heartening to them or really rewarding because they felt like there was a visible community,” Hirschler said. “We get so much interest, and so many people want to join.” 

The magazine’s most recent issue blends rich stories and poems with powerful visuals to create a unique experience. 

“The design work teases out really good elements from the articles,” Hirschler said. “It ends up being this really great process by which everyone is sort of helping tell the story that the person had pitched to us.”

Stories and projects within the magazine are accepted on a submission basis, which expands creativity, the co-editor’s said.

Student designer David Okoro called fashion a “form of self-expression. … Each piece I create is meant to tell a story. I am going to change the future of fashion with these pieces. That’s my goal to make changes and contribution to the fashion world and to the world of art.” (Photo courtesy V Magazine)

“Since we do everything on a pitch basis, it allows people to think more about what they would want to be seen in an article. It forces writers to think, ‘Oh, what is something different and new that we can have in this magazine?’ and then execute it,” Hara said. 

V Magazine has integrated multimedia components for added engagement with its readers. 

“We use QR codes to integrate playlists so that people can actively listen to something while they’re reading the magazine,” Hara said, “and hopefully it’s a cool way for people to be more creative, because you don’t necessarily just need to execute this idea visually, but you can add an audio component as well.” 

Hirschler said multimedia elements are not only interesting, but essential to a successful print magazine.

“Unfortunately, print is kind of struggling,” he said. “The print issue is beautiful to have as this testament to the physical, artistic process, but the multimedia elements really came in to make it feel modern and still alive and vibrant.

“Recently, some of the poets read and recorded their poems. So it’s not just that we’re printing their poems; it’s that we’re literally allowing their voice to interpret their poems for them. We’re still trying to figure out the way to publish that, but hopefully soon on social media.”

[Check out V Magazine’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.] 

In the most recent issue, students worked with a local small business to highlight decades of trends in clothing styles, and to intersect with the community.  

“My favorite project is the photo shoot that we collaborated on with a vintage clothing store downtown called Arsenic and Old Lace,” Hara said. “That was something that V Magazine has never done before, and it was such a cool experience because it benefitted both her and us because she can use it to market her clothes.”  

As co-editors, Hara and Hirschler faced a unique set of challenges in creating art during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The collaboration with local busines Arsenic & Old Lace was a first for V Magazine. (Photos courtesy V Magazine)

“We had the Zoom call over the summer, because that’s how it gets done now, and we’re like, ‘Can we even do this?’ We were both terrified if we’d be able to pull it off, but I’ve never had so much interest from people texting me, telling me that they want to do more and they’re just sitting in the room, and they want to have a creative outlet,” Hirschler said. “I think when you remove social life and parties and people, just the million distractions you had about COVID, suddenly everyone has all this time and energy to really dedicate to their creative projects and find themselves in those creative projects. So it’s been easier getting content than we expected.” 

The students didn’t just strive to create art during the pandemic; they strove to create art that meant something. 

“It wasn’t just us imposing an image on them,” Hirschler said. “We wanted to make sure that we're letting people express themselves in a time when it's been hard to express yourself."

As they graduated last month, Hara and Hirschler turned leadership of the magazine over to younger students, and they hope the magazine will continue to grow in the coming years. 

“Hopefully, V Magazine can build more of a community. COVID made it hard to do that this year,” Hara said. “I think that’s something we definitely want to emphasize with our work. We don’t just want to publish everyone; we want to create a community in a space where people can follow their dreams and come to us to help execute those visions.”