“Give him another round of applause,” urged the emcee, after a rousing spoken-word performance by Derrick Toler at the launch party for CRED Magazine. “That was strong.” But the crowd needed no encouragement. As contributors, supporters and avid readers of the newly minted North Philadelphia-based publication, they went wild. And with good reason: CRED, which is quickly staking a claim as Philly’s first premiere arts and cultural magazine edited by and for young people, is seriously legit.
The first issue, full-color and sleekly designed, showcases 105 submissions of art and poetry, in addition to news features on young emcees, bad tattoos and street ninjas, all by artists 25 or younger. CRED is the brainchild of the Village of Arts and Humanities, a North Philly-based nonprofit whose mission is to foster positive change by supporting artistic production in the community.
“We see so much art get generated here, whether by young people or by artists who work with young people,” says Aviva Kapust, CRED ’s editor-in-chief and programs director at the Village. “It gets created and then disappears.”
Young people wanted something more permanent and Kapust responded: “Art and writing are tangible things. We wanted to make sure that we focused on print.” Although kids these days are often referred to as the “digital generation,” Kapust felt that just throwing content into a blog or a website wouldn’t do the project justice: “Anyone can do that,” she points out. Instead, CRED’s lavishly designed pages give young people a concrete platform. “CRED says, ‘Your work is so important that we’re going to anthologize it.’ I can’t even tell you what it means to these kids,” Kapust says.
Ceaphas Stubbs knows what it means for him. “It’s definitely significant to me,” says the 22–year-old, whose striking portrait of someone with a densely patterned, face-obscuring headwrap scored the cover of magazine’s first issue. “I’ve never had my work published for a magazine before. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going.”
And like Stubbs, CRED has big plans. “The dream is that this can be a model that can be replicated in other cities,” says Kapust, who has plans to assemble a how-to kit after the third issue. “It’s so important for kids to know that they should keep making things.”
If anything, CRED proves that taking young people seriously means putting them at the helm and paying them to do it. One-third of the total budget for CRED is currently paid out to youth staff and contributing artists in small amounts ranging from $20-$40. It’s a refreshing model in a world where the obligatory, unpaid internship is a financial scourge on the backs of students everywhere. In terms of both gratification and practicality, Kapust feels that even modest amounts can go a long way. “We’re really promoting the young creative economy without having a thousands of dollar overheard for adults,” she says.
That creative economy is off to a promising start. Five pieces featured in CRED have been sold. Tori Lawrence, 23, and her dance company have been booked for the opening of the new Barnes Foundation building in Philadelphia this May. But perhaps most importantly, CRED has introduced young artists to one another. A musician and a visual artist are working on an album together, and young writers who profiled young artists have kept in touch.
At the release party, Asil Lawrence, 20, credited Kapust with recruiting him for the street team, a core group of young people who distribute CRED to 95 locations, including cafes, art galleries, elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools and colleges in the Philadelphia area. “I think she saw something in me, and I definitely wanted to be a part of it,” says Lawrence, who’s been hitting the pavement hard to secure ads and jumpstart circulation. Now that his work has paid off, Lawrence is humbled by CRED ’s enthusiastic reception. Sweeping his eyes over the packed room, he shakes his head: “There’s cameras here, there’s lights, it’s all exciting to me,” he admits, “This goes beyond my wildest dreams.” Like all the contributors I speak to, Lawrence may be reveling in the moment, but he already has his sights set on the next stage: “It’s just motivation for round two.”
CRED Magazine is a tri-annual publication. Next submission deadline: March 18. The Village of Arts and Humanities, 2544 Germantown Ave. 215.225.7830. villagearts.org/arts/cred-magazine