Minneapolis artist collective Plus Dog is working on their fourth zine

Plus Dog Collective members April Kasulis, left, Alex Araiza, center, and Marissa Luna, right, pose for a portrait on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 in Minneapolis. They will attend Short  Run Seattle, a comix and art festival, next weekend to promote Plus Dog Collective and connect with other artists.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Plus Dog Collective members April Kasulis, left, Alex Araiza, center, and Marissa Luna, right, pose for a portrait on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 in Minneapolis. They will attend Short Run Seattle, a comix and art festival, next weekend to promote Plus Dog Collective and connect with other artists.

Joe Cristo

Plus Dog, the Minneapolis artist collective, is more than just its semi-annual zine.

“We kind of canoodle around with making this an organizational center,” said founder April Kasulis. “Like an anchor kind of. We all got day jobs, so it helps if we can focus on things together.”

The collective started as an individual project by Kasulis about six years ago. It was not until 2014 that the group expanded and started to put out small print issues.

“We were all in this thing that was trying to restart Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s radio stations,” said Plus Dog contributor Marissa Luna. “It completely failed, but we all met and realized we could work on our own independent project together.”

Kasulis, Luna and Alex Araiza share most administrative duties. Kasulis is in charge of Plus Dog’s social media presence and image while Luna does general management tasks and Araiza is responsible for editing and assembling the zines and art projects.

The independent nature of the collective and its work is vital to understanding its purpose: Giving a voice to the typically voiceless.

“Believe it or not but there are a lot of queer people and people of color in art,” Araiza said. “Art is a way to be able to have a message without having money. You probably can’t afford to go to a really fancy school and be a senator. Art is a faster way to build a community.”

With the zine, Plus Dog can collect art from artists who are too busy working to devote their time to art. One is released each summer and winter and includes an anthology of work sent in to the collective.

“We want to put work out by all these awesome artists that are out there,” Luna said. “We want them to be visible — to make it more normalized to see different types of people.”

This message of inclusion is paramount. The collective not only focuses its efforts on including voices that are underrepresented in mainstream culture — it works to encourage people who are usually discouraged from sharing their work.

“Like people with mental illness and living in poverty,” Luna said. “None of that should be able to prevent you from getting your artwork and your voice out there.”

It’s hard to tell exactly how many people contribute to the collective. Members come and go. Around 15 people are currently involved.

The Plus Dog community has become tight-knit since the collective is mostly comprised of friends. Members support each other in their artistic ventures as well as in their daily lives.

“You don’t even have to ask for help,” Araiza said. “People will just help each other. I’d like it if that wasn’t just in our group. Maybe we can encourage and embrace others to create a community.”

Most of Plus Dog’s sales are made at various zine fests around the country and by selling or trading with fellow artists. The group also relies on Boneshaker Books and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts to help spread their art.

Plus Dog would like to grow their zine operation from a 50 single run per issue to a more sustainable financial endeavor. Everyone wants to work less and dedicate more time to art.

“We’d kind of like this to be our [job],” Araiza said. “But I wouldn’t mind putting that money back into an online store … or to reinvest in some other people’s art.”

The plan is to turn their first three issues into a properly bound multicolored book. The end goal is to take over the means of production and do the printing themselves.

“I’d love to group up with our print guy Mason [Sklar],” Kasulis said. “And have our own space and be more hands on with the printing. Maybe help other people print their stuff.”

This winter, Plus Dog will be releasing their fourth zine anthology and attending Seattle’s Short-Run Comix and Art Festival. Their work can be found on www.plus-dog.tumblr.com.