Announcing: The Sick Muse #11 Featured Essay + Poster Contest

We are excited to make a public call for two paid commissioned works for our upcoming 11th issue: one written, one visual. While we have commissioned work from individuals before, this is our first time making a public call for paid work, as we make strides to being able to pay all our contributors. Each selected artist/writer will receive $50.

  • Featured Essay (Creative Nonfiction Writing)

We are seeking to publish a thoughtful, creative, and original essay that explores in some way the theme of mass media: how do ideas propagate? How does art and knowledge move so that they can move us? How does power play into this? How does form play into this? The meaning of “mass media” is up for your interpretation. Anything Chicago-related is a plus.

Submissions could be in the form of cultural criticism, personal essays, social commentary, and narrative journalism, but we are also excited by writing that does not conform to form. For this featured essay competition, we are not accepting profiles of a single artist or collective, interviews, or short stories/fiction (but we welcome them in our general submission process!). The selected writer will work with an editor after selection, so the submitted piece can be a rough draft.

Please keep to approximately 1500 words max.

Deadline: December 15th

  • Centerfold Poster

Design a poster for the centerfold! The centerfold sheet of the issue will be a poster that readers can remove and hang on their walls. Posters should in some way explore the theme of mass media: how do ideas propagate? How does art and knowledge move so that they can move us? How does power play into this? How does form play into this? All styles and mediums welcome: the poster can be abstract, informational, aesthetic, or didactic. The poster will be part of a run of 5000 copies on newsprint.

Please submit a detailed sketch of the poster in the appropriate dimensions (see below). If available, include examples of past work or a link to your website/portfolio so we can get a sense of your style.

Deadline: December 15th

Dimension: Centerfold dimensions are 21” x 10”. The final version will be printed in full color (CMYK) on newsprint.

Send submissions and questions to sickmuse.chi@gmail.com

Call for Submissions to The Sick Muse #11!

Call for submissions!

Deadline: December 1st

Send to: sickmuse.chi@gmail.com

Dear loyal and disloyal readers,

We are now accepting submissions to The Sick Muse #11. This unique issue will be printed on newsprint and distributed for free to 5000 people! In the spirit of its newspaper format, the theme of the issue is mass media: how do ideas propagate? How does art and knowledge move so that they can move us? How does power play into this? How does form play into this?

As always, The Sick Muse is a platform for the expression of your experiences, feelings, philosophies related to music and art and how it happens in Chicago. Beyond the issue’s theme, we also accept anything that can be printed on a page that hovers around musicking and art-making in Chicago. This could include articles, lyrics, poetry, photography, essays, graphic art, stories, histories, dialogues, profiles, interviews, comics, and love notes.

We are also seeking two commissioned (paid) works. More info here.

In sickness and in health,


Utopia is here…

#10 is the first 68-page, full color, glossy, 8.5 x 11″ issue of the Sick Muse, bursting with knowledge and fresh creations. Centered around the theme of ~utopia~ the issue features:

  • an interview with rap duo Mother Nature about becoming hip-hop geniuses
  • an interview with Chicago industrial and downtempo electronics wonders »radiant devices«
  • a guide to foraging wild life and growing food in Chicago
  • a foto series of queer nightlife by ColectivoMultipolar
  • an oral history of DIY Chicago
  • lyrics by Bloodhype, Cordoba, Forever, Absolutely Not, Isaura Flores, Richard Album, and Breathing Light
  • and so so much more.

Cop your copy.

Letter from the Editors

To our loyal and disloyal readers:

This issue that you hold in your hands holds many utopias.

The specific word stretches back 502 years, when Sir Thomas More coined the term from the Greek in his 1516 book Utopia. The idea is as ancient as it is futuristic. In the Great Lakes oasis of Chicago, utopia has driven many people and many projects: the Miami Confederacy, Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket Riots, the Nation of Islam, and the town of Pullman, to name a few.

The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 was one such project, and it brought thousands of people to Chicago to explore, mingle, work, protest, and marvel at the future of urban life. It took place during a period of tidal shifts in society (400 years after the arrival of Columbus; 30 years after the Emancipation Proclamation; 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire; 16 years after the end of Reconstruction; 7 years after the Haymarket Square protests; 1 year before the Pullman railroad strike; 3 years before the Plessy v. Ferguson case) and cast the future of Chicago’s architecture and culture. Utopia according to the organizers of that fair was, like the organizers themselves, Eurocentric, white, capitalist, and male. But there was pushback to that vision. We find utopia in the struggle led by Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass to protest the racism of the fair. In the history of oppression there is always also an intersecting history of resistance.  

If you’re reading this in time with the issue’s release (June 22-30), there is another Chicago World’s Fair happening. The World’s Fair 2018 is the remix of the history of the 1893 Expo, creating community in a world that transcends money and borders. Like this issue, the WF2018 is a platform for the utopian visions lighting Chicago now and from the roots. We ask, what is utopia without money and borders? What are our fantasies and forecasts for a free world, a fair world, a World’s Fair? Join the parades, workshops, performances, potlucks, and conversations all week; the schedule is online at www.nomoneynoborders.com! #nomoneynoborders

This publication has focused on the art and writings surrounding the community of independent/underground musicians in Chicago that generally falls under the purview of the DIY Chi. The lines that determine what is DIY Chi, and what is not, are blurry and confusing. For a demonstration of this blurriness one needs not look further than the names of the separate facebook groups devoted to it: “DIY Chicago,” “not diy not chicago,” and “Chicago DIY Rap & Hip Hop.” Like any good utopia, DIY Chi is never quite one. It is frequently debated whether pDIY Chi is a good thing or not; that is, whether it effectively offers anything better in its do-it-yourself ethos than the conventional setting for music at established venues with established artists. We will say some things with certainty. First, there is indisputably a supply of unimaginably talented musicians and artists all around us that grossly overwhelms what is seen as the industry proper, with its money backing and inherited prejudices and established venues, publications, musicians, and distributors. What’s more there is a demand for this music and a willingness to create it in spite of all the constraints of money and borders, as people from all walks of life crave the community, reflection, and raw energy that sometimes only music can provide.

The DIY Chi roots in and grows from past versions of itself in a way that is constantly moving toward paradise. We have been experimenting with sustainable, alternative living situations and forms of exchange and justice for years. When our collective dream of a freer, happier, art-fueled world is attacked and falls, we don’t end up at the bottom, forgetting all the progress we made. We hold on to it, and change and continue building towards our dreams with the tools we’ve fought for. We are our ancestors’ wildest dream and we are building utopia.

Your Editors

Front cover by Benjamin Karas. Back cover by Xander Black.

Published June 22, 2018 as part of the World’s Fair 2018.

Celebrate The Sick Muse 10 Release!

On the opening night of The World’s Fair 2018, join us to celebrate the release of The Sick Muse 10: UTOPIA at the Co-Prosperity Sphere!!

With performance by:

Glad Rags

>>radiant device<<

MC Foucault

DJ Sasha No Disco

+ Comedy
+TSM-curated art gallery with works by Sarai Redmond, Alex XIII Maerbach, Jordyn Belli, Eliza Karazah, Sustainable Confidence and more!

The Sick Muse 10 is centered around the theme of UTOPIA and it is the first magazine-format, glossy af issue printed at 8.5″x11″!! The release is part of the World’s Fair 2018 (www.nomoneynoborders.com)!

??Pre-order your copy of TSM 10 here??

Doors at 7 / Show at 8
$8 suggested donation
**Free raffle ticket with entry**
Prizes include merch from local bands and more!

!!!!Food and drink for sale!!!
(no byob)

Pre-Order TSM 10!

Gahhhhhhh the biggest baddest glossiest issue of the Sick Muse is almost here…and for the first time ever, we’re offering a pre-order situation: so follow this link!

The Sick Muse 10 is centered around the theme of UTOPIA and will include:

  • an interview with rap duo Mother Nature about becoming hip-hop geniuses
  • an interview with »radiant devices«, Chicago industrial and downtempo electronics wonders
  • a guide to foraging wild life and growing food in Chicago
  • a foto series of queer nightlife by ColectivoMultipolar
  • a timeline of DIY Chicago from 2000-2036
  • an account of cooperative living
  • and uh, so much more! We don’t want to give it all away 😉

Printed on 8.5″ x 11″ glossy paper and 68 pages long, our 10th issue will include waaay more content by/about Chicago DIY artmakers than ever before. (It’s also way more expensive to print. We’re trying to keep the cost as low as we can while also creating a beautiful, exciting zine bursting with knowledge and fresh creations. We’ve cut down the number of zines we print yearly in order to create more expansive issues, so think of this as three issues in one).

The issue drops June 22 on the opening night of the World’s Fair 2018. Stay tuned for details about the release party!

We love you and thank you for your support.

Now in Stock at: Sustain!


The Sick Muse is now in stock at Sustain, an artist-run gallery and art shop in Uptown. Issue 8 and 9 are currently stocked, with more back issues on the way. We’ve never looked so pretty.

Sustain has a lovely selection of handmade goods and a sick zine/book table. They also run a tape label: Niatsus!

They have an open proposal system for their gallery and workshop programming, so hit them up!