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With Local Base, ‘Driftless’ Magazine Is a Journey Through the Midwest

Driftless is an independent, ad-free, print magazine that pays homage to Midwestern sensibilities, culture, and lore. Each issue is a journey, guiding readers through fields and forests, lakes and streams, into charming towns highlighting crafters and artisans, hidden culinary gems, and more. 

For those of us born in the Midwest, it is easy to feel a sense of local pride because the magazine’s creators curate each issue to reveal what we already know — there is beauty here, you just have to know where to look.

Driftless is published by Shelly Westerhausen, Leah Fithian, and Anna Powell Teeter, three Indiana University grads with combined backgrounds in photography, graphic design, fine art, journalism, and arts management. All three currently have day jobs: Westerhausen works for Bloomington independent record label Secretly Canadian; Fithian is a freelance photographer and a commercial photography production assistant in Chicago; and Powell Teeter is a Bloomington-based photographer, videographer, and storyteller.

Westerhausen and Fithian started the magazine almost two years ago. “We are both artists,” says Westerhausen, who felt like the Midwest was being overlooked in other publications. “And since we are both huge magazine fanatics, we decided to showcase Midwestern artists through a magazine.” Two issues later, Powell Teter joined the team.

As Westerhausen explains, “I am the ideas person, Leah is a details person, and Anna is the one who fills all the gaps.”

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As artists, the trio was drawn to producing a physical artifact, so Driftless is their collaborative work of art made of ink and paper. “We pride ourselves on the quality,” says Westerhausen. “It’s something we want people to hold on to, put on their coffee tables, or put on their bookshelves.”

Behind the Scenes: Concept to Print

Some may confuse the name of the magazine with the Driftless Area, a region mainly in southwestern Wisconsin that didn’t see glaciers in the last glacial period. (Glaciers leave behind sediment and rocks, called drift — thus this region is “driftless.”) As Westerhausen explains, though, the Driftless Area “has nothing to do with the magazine, but we wanted to use the word conceptually. A lot of our artist friends have moved to the coasts, so Driftless is a tribute to those who have stayed here and all the creative work that hasn’t drifted away to the coasts.”

The biannual publication is themed around the seasons: fall/winter and spring/summer. Content is gathered by holding open submissions for a period of weeks. For each issue, the team looks for a variety of content but likes to offer a city guide, an artist profile, recipes, and a business feature. They also look for illustrations, photo essays, and adventure stories. “Anything that is Midwest-based and seasonably themed is open for consideration,” says Powell.

Once submissions are received, the team meets and makes selections. If they find an artist or business they want to feature, they reach out to collect content, conduct interviews, and take photographs. They also sort through editorial submissions, test recipes, and select products for the magazine’s Midwest Tastemakers shopping guide. The aim is for Driftless to appeal to a broad audience so that all readers find something interesting within the pages of each issue. The team hopes readers will discover something new, something they might become passionate about. After curating the issue, the design process begins and, after many edits and proofs, the magazine is printed.

"Driftless" issues (l-r): Issue 1 cover photo by Leah Fithian, Issue 2 cover photo by Shelly Westerhausen, Issue 3 cover photo by Evan Perigo, and Issue 4 cover photo by Jason Robinette. | Courtesy images

“Driftless” issues (l-r): Issue 1 cover photo by Leah Fithian, Issue 2 cover photo by Shelly Westerhausen, Issue 3 cover photo by Evan Perigo, and Issue 4 cover photo by Jason Robinette. | Courtesy images

Issue Four

The current issue, Issue 4, focuses on the fall and winter season with features on Midwestern cafés, artisans, and contemporary artists. The magazine is filled with beautiful photographs, too, including commentary on Chicago buildings through “Deconstruction,” a photo series of structures just before and during their demolition. It also includes seasonal cookie recipes and collaborative storytelling projects with images and poetry. You will also find a few articles from Bloomington in the mix: a heartfelt narrative about the owner of The Cabin Restaurant and Lounge on Route 446 East and a Q&A with the owners of Rainbow Bakery.

Driftless invites readers to slow down and take a moment to see something new. It beckons you to see the beauty in the world around you, discover tucked-away places you have never been, and be inspired by the people and places not too far from home. Whether you live in the region or somewhere beyond, Westerhausen, Fithian, and Powell Teeter have created Driftless to prove that the Midwest is not just flyover territory; it is well worth the stop.

Copies of Driftless are available for purchase at businesses throughout the region or via their online store for $15. In Bloomington, you can pick up a copy at Bloomington Guitar & Amp, Blueline Media Productions, Cactus Flower, Gather :handmade shoppe & Co.:, and Friends of Art Bookshop

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Contributors
Ann Georgescu
Ann Georgescu has a passion for making unusual connections. She has spent three decades exploring the world through journalism, commercial art, yoga, and hairdressing. From these endeavors, Ann has learned about truth, creativity, practice, and beauty. She has also found them all to be perfect ways to collect stories. Utilizing the tools from her experiences, Ann has a feel for the unusual angle in everyday events and loves to share her impressions through written and visual storytelling.
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