I remember first exploring Wicker Park in the early 90's. Back when the whole neighborhood was an interesting and slightly dangerous adventure. I'd see people openly dealing drugs in the park, I witnessed a drive-by shooting around the corner by the Double Door, and the neighborhood was just starting to become a locus for the art scene in Chicago. Within a few years, the Around the Coyote art festival was bringing thousands of people into the neighborhood to check out artists and their studios, which in turn sped up the gentrification of the neighborhood and its transformation into Lincoln Park West.
But in that period 20 years ago a lot of excellent independent galleries and organizations opened up in Wicker Park including Quimby's Bookstore, Myopic Books, Billy "Upski" Wimsatt's Vision Village (a hip-hop oriented activist center), The A-Zone (an anarchist community center) , the activist black bookstore Lit-X (in the basement where Starbucks and Flash Taco are now located), and galleries like Beret International and Ten-in-One.
Another well curated and low budget art space that opened during that period was Buddy, which was the precursor to the vast Lumpen/Co-Prosperity Sphere/Public Media Institute/Version Fest/Select Fest/and Proximity magazine media and art empire that Edmar (Ed Marzewski) and friends currently run. They also began Lumpen Magazine at that time.
This was a period when new computer programs were allowing people to design and publish interesting magazines themselves. Magazines would come and go, lasting only a few issues. I'd pick up Lumpen with its mix of politics, art, and music coverage and then find another issue months later that was magically several issue numbers after the one I had last seen. I started keeping an eye out for it every time I went to Wicker Park because I liked it and the drastically different cover designs that they had.
Well, 117 issues later they've now reached their 20th anniversary. This is an amazing run for any kind of publication and I'd just like to say congratulations! They've carried articles on timely topics that I first read about there, they've been a source of independent comics, and their pages have also functioned as a diary of the Chicago art scene, including the infamous Party Steve columns.
The special all-color 20th anniverary edition of Lumpen will be released free at the MDW Fair tonight (which I wrote about below) as well as other spots in Bridgeport.
In addition to the 80-page issue there'll also be a 24-page bonus publication inside featuring highlights from previous issues...
Click on the covers to view all the image madness.
More info here on the Proximity magazine site. You can also catch some of the old issues at Lumpen's former site.