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UCSB Students Launch Revamped Version of Literary Arts Magazine

The Catalyst, with second and third issues already in the works, is touted as a collaborative arts movement

Hundreds of UCSB students and Isla Vista residents showed up to last month’s launch party for The Catalyst, a reviatlized version of the college’s literary-arts magazine that hadn’t been published since 2007.
Hundreds of UCSB students and Isla Vista residents showed up to last month’s launch party for The Catalyst, a reviatlized version of the college’s literary-arts magazine that hadn’t been published since 2007.  (John Clow / The Bottom Line photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

A light mist fell on a quiet evening gathering last month, where more than 200 college students and locals loitered in the parking lot of the Isla Vista Food Co-op.

The UC Santa Barbara students lingered over free food and written word, listening almost reverently as poetry and short stories were recited aloud, seemingly creating a different art form altogether.

To those present at the launch party of the revamped student-run literary arts magazine, the Jan. 30 event featuring content from the publication was indicative of its purpose — bringing the community together while inspiring change.

The Catalyst aims to craft a collaborative movement, beginning with a combination of the visual, verbal and written works of students from all majors.

The original version of the free magazine, which hasn’t been seen on campus since 2007, included submissions from English majors and spun out of a required class offered in the 1990s.

Third-year English major Natalie O’Brien is the driving force behind the magazine’s revitalization as editor-in-chief, opening the periodical’s pages up to anyone brave enough to fill the 80 color pages with stories, poems, photos and illustrations.

The Catalyst printed its first issue since the hiatus in January, and is already planning a second for spring and an upcoming third because submissions keep coming in.

“Now that it’s out, it’s way easier for people to jump on board because they have an example,” O’Brien said. “It shows that Isla Vista wants that and needs that. People have come out of the woodwork.”

The Catalyst
The Catalyst, a student-run literary arts magazine at UCSB, features community submissions of stories, poems, photos and illustrations. (Ivy Kuo / The Bottom Line photo)

O’Brien has had Catalyst on the mind since last spring, when English professor Candace Waid, a former adviser for the magazine, broached the subject.

Work really began last fall when Haagen Printing Typecraft Inc. gave students a great deal on its first 750 copies. The UCSB Arnhold Scholar Program and AS Program Board also helped because the magazine has no paid advertisements.

Student artwork was commissioned to accompany poems, academic research and projects, as opposed to the previous text-only model.

Twenty students then went to work planning the launch party, which featured artwork, catered food from the co-op and live, local music performances.

“The catalyst is catalytic,” a proud Waid said. “What’s remarkable about it is this is an earth-up movement. This is a very particular group that’s shown a lot of initiative This is very much a happening.”

Waid said the magazine has a new, exciting dimension, noting that students hope it might become a seminar-like class next year.

Reprints of the issue are on the way due to demand, and the entire magazine can also be viewed online by clicking here.

The relaunch party was so successful that O’Brien plans to present a similar showcase— and stage for student artists — with every issue.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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