A small magazine that dreams big

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Marley DeRosia, Andrea Westerlund and Gianluca D’Elia work on Flower Power.

For Andrea Westerlund, the chief editor of the new Rochester-based arts and culture quarterly, Flower Power, size mattered. While open to every other suggestion from her team, the magazine had to be a slim 6 by 9 inches.

“It was so important that it could be small enough to tuck into your bag and take with you,” says Westerlund, a lifelong magazine fanatic. “When I picked up the proof (of the first issue) from the printers and held it in my hands, I nearly cried, I was so happy.”

That proof went on to be published in July as Flower Power’s inaugural summer issue. The fall issue was published yesterday with a release party at Rochester Contemporary Art Center. While this latest publication is themed around “Sensations,” the editorial team says it, and every issue of Flower Power, will be centered around “the most important facet of Rochester–the people.” A print issue costs $10.

Editor Marley DeRosia, a Rochesterian, equates the experience of writing and producing the magazine with turning over a rock.

“You can see all the squirmy new bugs just underneath and say, ‘Whoa, this is cool!’ (With our stories), we find all those overlooked things down there,” DeRosia says.

For example, Genesee Valley Gender Variants is a social meet-up group at the Equal Grounds Coffee House for gender-variant people. But it also hosts clothing swaps, an important way for trans people to find gender-affirming clothing, something that is difficult to purchase based on pay and hiring discrimination. DeRosia sees the story she wrote about GV² as a way to support those communities where not enough is being done through mainstream efforts.

The first issue of Flower Power also contained stories on up-and-coming artists, poets, filmmakers and musicians, thrifting enthusiasts, a cannabis entrepreneur and feminist, the women behind the Stages in Recovery Theater Group and Women’s Impact Network of Rochester, and an essay by artist Anna Vos.

The current issue features similar stories on musicians and artists, the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons, the history of a long-standing local ice cream shop, as well as many community writing and art submissions.

“We’re not profiling the most prominent businesses or events, but trying to shine a light on people making it work in 585. Extraordinary people who don’t make it into the media,” Westerlund says. “As a small magazine, we want to support other small creators.”

“We can fill a gap. Newsrooms are under-resourced and just can’t do coverage the way they might want to with smaller creators and stories,” says photojournalist and social media manager Gianluca D’Elia, who points to a story he wrote on artist Justin Hubbell.

Hubbell is a trans cartoonist whose comedic but poignant work has been highlighted by national LGBT support organization the Trevor Project. They have yet to be written about by local media, however.

“(Hubbell is) making a big impact so it feels like a sense of duty to seek out stories like that. It’s a lofty thing to talk about, but something I’ve always wanted to do,” D’Elia says.

While DeRosia is a Rochester native who was already in love with the area, Westerlund and D’Elia are transplants who came to love the city. In particular, D’Elia, who is an even newer arrival, says he felt his connection to Rochester was strengthened by his work with Flower Power.

“I kept feeling like I needed to defend it. There’s so many amazing people working here,” he says, describing a conversation with out-of-state friends. “Moving here recently, I have a bigger appreciation for what it has, I think. (Rochester) natives love to talk it down when it comes up, I found.”

Adds DeRosia: “We’re like the annoying sibling like, ‘I can talk shit, but you’re not allowed.’” 

As the Flower Power website reads: “In our humble opinion … Rochester is the SH!T. The magazine is an act of love. To a city, to its people, to you. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.”

While Flower Power has yet to be widely distributed across the city, it has garnered support already with the first issue close to selling out-roughly 300 issues-at the launch party. While electronic versions are available and plans include digital expansion, the Flower Power team also thinks physical copies are important for the magazine reading experience.

“I grew up reading lots of magazines and there’s no substitute for cozying up in a coffee shop and digging into a new issue,” says Westerlund. “It’s really slightly selfish because I always wanted to produce one. And, one crazy fever dream with lots of work later, we did. I really am living my dream.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

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