Work by artist Paul Nudd for The Quarantine Times Credit: courtesy the Quarantine Times

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed with the creativity of Chicagoans spreading news, arts, music, and wellness. Staying sane and healthy during these precarious times has become a virtually spearheaded community effort. Checking in, staying hydrated, standing up, stretching, and staying informed are the basics. The folks in the Bridgeport-based hub that encompasses Co-Prosperity Sphere, Lumpen, and Marz Community Brewing are still doing what they always do (which is a lot) and supporting artists through their new periodical, The Quarantine Times.

Ed Marszewski and Nick Wylie both corresponded with me over e-mail about their new outlet, which lives online now and will be published in print later.

How did the idea for The Quarantine Times begin?

Our plans and programming changed drastically as we mothballed our physically presented programming two weeks ago. We saw how this was going to affect everything that cultural organizations were doing and we pivoted our thinking. Having published periodicals and books for almost three decades it also seemed imperative to focus on the crisis today and every day in a format we knew we could deliver. Thinking about our publishing, and this unprecedented challenge for our communities and neighbors, we also knew that commissioning and compiling compelling creative reflections on the crisis would serve as an important record of this time, so we decided to plan to make a publication at the end of the crisis.

We looked at our budget situation and decided to do what we could to support artists through this project. We have committed to providing stipends to a number of artists to provide some monetary support as they need it right now. Our hope is to raise more funds to continue offering stipends. We were inspired by many individual artists’ rapid response to the emergency including Marc Fischer, whose daily Quaranzine project helped us conceive of the daily distribution of creative contributions. The platform continues to grow into programming on the radio, participatory livestreams on Twitch, call-in accounts, and more.

How does this platform offer a space for artists and creatives throughout the city?

So far, Quarantine Times’s daily editors have laid the groundwork for a sampling of different ways that people can contribute, and next week each of them will help introduce a new Chicagoan’s response to the crisis. They’ll take many different forms, but all will live on the website, in socials, and eventually in the book. We are making it as streamlined and easy as possible for people to submit their work, and our whole team at PMI [Public Media Institute] has shifted gears to support the editors in the refining and dissemination of the contributions as they come in. We have also reached out to designers and comics artists to start contributing imagery and comics for the site. The Quarantine Times Facebook group is growing rapidly and helps creatives stay in touch with one another, share resources and artwork, and be notified when new content arrives.

I’m especially drawn to some of the sound elements on the website. “Evidence of Life” is a fantastic project. Can you explain what it is and how readers can get involved?

We love the contributions of the audio baths, voice-recording messages by listeners and those great mixtapes. It’s great to be able to break outside our usual listening habits. Readers and listeners can just call our Lumpen Radio station phone number (773-823-9700) and leave a one-minute message. In fact, we encourage people to do that! We’ve had lots of call-ins and are sharing them as we can. Lumpen Radio’s physical studio has shut down, but Stephanie Manriquez, Jamie Trecker, Logan Bay, and many radio hosts are working hard to produce and air new content remotely every day. Today we aired a new episode of Hitting Left, which included an especially moving interview with Amanda Klonsky about the dire situation that inmates and staff at the Cook County Jail.

Can anyone submit an idea to The Quarantine Times?

We elected an editorial team which included members of the Co-Prosperity Programming Council and then people we felt could report on various sectors of the creative industries. Those editors then selected artists to become contributors. We also have gotten the band back together and are working with our friends and colleagues that work on or have worked on our publications like Lumpen magazine, Proximity, and of course the radio. Anyone can submit ideas and projects for possible inclusion. They should just e-mail an idea and we can hit them back.

After self-isolation is over, there are plans to print this project like Lumpen magazine?

Once the quarantine is over the entire project will be presented as a book, which will be released at a party where we can all get together again. It will be called the Quarantine Chronicle.

Lumpen and CoPro are Southside staples and I’m always admiring how much y’all do for the community (as a fellow McKinley Park resident). How imperative is community work and action during this time for you all?

As an organization, it is our mission to constantly present amazing projects and provide help to as many communities as we can. And in times like these, we have to work even harder to amplify the voices of those navigating the uncertainty and hardships before us. It’s hard not to greet artists, audiences, and DJs into the usually lively space, and to postpone the launch of our new space, Buddy, in the Chicago Cultural Center, but we are staying in constant communication with our editors, contributors, audiences, and community; in fact, we have made a bunch of new friends and reconnected with others. We will continue to find ways to be together as we stay at home. Brandon Alvendia launch[ed] the first of his weekly hosted gatherings on Twitch, and we’ll be attempting a Zoom after party. We hope to see a lot of new and old friends in those virtual rooms. Join us Saturday evenings on Twitch. Brandon’s article explains how to participate and you can follow @the_quarantinetimes for more ways to engage 🙂  

The Quarantine Times will publish new content every day. Thursday 4/2 Mairead Case will present Santiago X, Friday 4/3 Christy LeMaster will present Diddle Knabb, Saturday 4/4 Brandon Alvendia will present Valentina Zamfirescu, Sunday 4/5 Manal Kara of the Co-Prosperity Programming Council will publish a piece and Marc Fischer will present Liz Mason.   v