Tellus Zine is building a community of young creatives, and all Tri-State teens are invited

'It is made by young people for young people'
Posted at 7:00 AM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 17:24:49-05

CINCINNATI — For students across Greater Cincinnati, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought massive change in how they learn, what they do and who they see each day.

The Tellus Zine editorial board at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center is inviting young people to channel that change into creative work for the digital magazine’s upcoming issue.

“We really wanted to pick a theme that connotated change because this previous year, and, like, even the months leading up to the present have been, like, so chaotic and insane and full of all this change,” said Nandini Likki, a senior at The Seven Hills School and a member of the Tellus editorial board. “We really wanted to explore people’s reactions to that, both physical change and metaphorical change.”

Nandini Likki

This will be the second issue for Tellus, which accepts submissions from artists between the ages of 13 and 21. Planning began in 2019 for the digital magazine, and its first issue published in May 2020. The theme for that first issue was “in your element,” and it featured artwork, photos, poems and other creative writing.

“My favorite part about the zine is that it is made by young people for young people,” said Lila Joffe, a senior at Cincinnati Country Day who has been a member of the Tellus editorial board since it launched. “There aren’t always a ton of artistic opportunities for the younger generation, and this one is so unique because we understand the art that we are receiving, and we kind of understand the point of view of young people, maybe a little bit better than adults they might be submitting to at other publications.”

Lila Joffe

Tellus grew out of Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s Teen Artists for Change Program. Teens picked the name for the publication for its double meaning. The word “Tellus” means “Earth” in Latin but also can be broken down into the invitation “tell us,” said Bethany Pelle, the director of arts engagement and learning at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center. She’s one of two staff facilitators for the Tellus editorial board.

The editorial board’s 14 members haven’t been able to meet in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pelle said, but they have remained connected through twice monthly virtual meetings.

“It’s been a really important way for the participants that are on the editorial board to stay connected with their community and to build new community across Cincinnati,” Pelle said. “In light of all the hardship of the last year, I think the students have found it a really important way to process what’s been going on.”

Likki said she has noticed a change in her creative writing since the start of the pandemic.

Bethany Pelle_cropped.jpg
Bethany Pelle

“Especially last year, my writing became way more introspective and vulnerable,” she said. “But I think it’s been really great because it’s, like, giving me something to do during quarantine so I don’t go crazy, but it’s also a way for me to, like, really reflect on what I’ve been going through and what’s to come in the future.”

Joffe said her photography also reflects what is happening in the world around her.

“I think art in itself is always reflecting what is happening around you, like in society and the government and in your life,” she said.

A piece for her Advanced Placement art portfolio, for example, includes a portrait that Joffe took of a man at the Madisonville Community Garden. Joffe made the photo into a collage with other images that she had taken in the neighborhood.

“This piece was kind of supposed to be about gentrification,” she said. “I kind of use the fracturing of these images and scissors like with texture to kind of show how the community is being broken up by developers.”

This collage by Lila Joffe includes a portrait she took of a man at the neighborhood's community garden. The fractured images in the collage represent gentrification.

The editorial board includes members from all different parts of the region who create different types of art, and the board strives to include diverse perspectives in Tellus, too, Joffe said.

The goal is to embrace all those perspectives, Likki said, and give them a place to shine.

“It’s easy to feel, like, all alone cooped up in your house,” Likki said. “But going to these meetings and being part of the board reminds me that, like, I’m not alone. And I have all these wonderful people to work with and to interact with and to share feedback with my art.”

“I’m hoping with our issue, with the submissions with Metamorphosis, that people will reach out and become part of the community as well,” she added. “Because with each submission to the zine, you’re becoming part of our community.”

"Where to turn," a collage by Lila Joffe.

More information about Tellus Zine is available online. It is free to submit work, and the deadline to submit for this year’s issue has been extended to April 1.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.