The Olivetree Review, a Hunter College student-run literary and arts magazine, published its first digital-only issue earlier this month. The magazine features art, drama, poetry and prose by Hunter students on a variety of topics, from everyday life and current events to broader themes such as hope, resilience, longing and inspiration.
Before the pandemic, The Olivetree Review published a new issue each semester. However, the latest issue covers both the spring and fall 2020 semesters, showcasing the diverse array of student submissions the editors received throughout the year. It also acts as a retrospective of sorts, a way of chronicling and making meaning from events, ideas, people and places both local and global during the past year. Despite the absence of a print version, this issue clearly conveys the diversity and warmth of the Hunter community, representing numerous perspectives, cultures and traditions.
One of the challenges in creating a completely digital issue was maintaining the high standards and expectations established from prior issues. The Olivetree Review has been around since 1983, and staff felt the importance of preserving and building upon its continuing legacy. “We were all hoping that this would be just as good as any other issue,” said Vice President and Senior Publicist Srinidhi Rao.
There were several hurdles to overcome: reviewing two issues worth of content for one issue, the inability to access their in-person office or create a print version of the issue due to the pandemic, and dealing with different timetables and deadlines. The shift in space and work environment, in particular, presented a challenge.
“Our space is extremely important to us; there’s always someone in there between classes or hanging out,” said Editor-in-Chief Melissa Rueda. Before the pandemic, The Olivetree Review shared an office in the Thomas Hunter building with other student-run publications such as Hunted Hero Comics and The Envoy. “It was a very safe community space for all of us,” Rueda said.
However, the work ethic, perseverance and sense of community within The Olivetree Review worked as a catalyst, inspiring its editors to create a memorable, high-quality and accessible digital issue. “It all worked out because of our fantastic editors,” Rao said. Rueda agreed: “Being handed this situation and having to re-adjust was very rewarding,” she said. “I think everyone really did their part and all the parts were moving.”
Having an existing online presence pre-pandemic also assisted in facilitating a smooth transition to functioning entirely remotely. In addition to publishing print issues, The Olivetree Review has also published their issues digitally on Issuu for the past decade. They also have an online presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and other platforms, which they utilize to build community and provide a space for Hunter student artists to share their work publicly.
“We definitely have focused a lot on our online presence, and something we started after COVID hit was featuring different artists on our Instagram, and that has been great, with a lot of people reaching out and getting in contact with us,” Rueda said.
The content of this issue reflects and represents the diversity of Hunter students, featuring a wide range of perspectives and points of view. Some works take a local focus, such as the poem “Past 72nd St.” by Hunter student Kate Bird and the painting “Nightmare on Wall Street” by Hunter student Macy Rajacich. The former explores an interaction between a well-dressed wealthy man and a begging man on 72nd Street, while the latter shows the exposed head and shoulders of a person being attacked by numerous sharp-toothed creatures with large mouths and fierce claws, presumably on Wall Street.
Other works utilize a broader approach, which can be seen in the visual art piece “What is a Muse” by The Olivetree Review’s Publicity Assistant Olivia Baldacci, which features a montage of images depicting actions or representations of profound love, insight and inspiration. The short story “Is This a Memory or a Dream” by Hunter graduate Sharon Young manages to inhabit both worlds, beginning with dreams about a scorching world and taking us through a series of local imagery, before concluding that “we’re determined to leave the world with a bang – even if that’s the last thing we do.”
The wide range of works included in this issue showcase the wellspring of diversity and creativity that is a cornerstone of the Hunter community, and something that appears to be a core value for the staff at The Olivetree Review. “Everyone is so different, and it makes a better magazine when you have different perspectives. It really showcases what Hunter is really about,” Rao said. “I want people to know that they are safe and would feel comfortable coming to The Olivetree Review to share work.”
The 2020 issue of The Olivetree Review can be found via their Issuu page. It is free to read, and readers can also access many previous issues on this page.