About Us

Way back in 1991, a zine was born in Champaign, Illinois called The Lumpen Times. The creators would go on to relaunch it in Chicago in 1993, and over time, it led them to build a Community of the Future. Lumpen magazine became the main hub of a network of projects that have culminated in The Buddy System. Here's our story...

History of The Buddy System

We like to think that these businesses (depending on who you ask) either successfully failed or became cultural institutions for the city. They are The Buddy System.

Our community of buddies started a record label, spawned even more publications, engaged in dot-communism, opened community art spaces, hosted international art and activism festivals, and produced thousands of exhibitions and events. They also built an FM radio station, opened a bar, a restaurant, launched a brewery, built another beverage company, created an artists retail shop, created community kitchens, and embarked on even more.

From non-profit publications to for-profit breweries and third places –we're a broad and diverse collection of community-driven projects. This range of passions are an interconnected and deeply inclusive set of ventures, though each one is independently operated, they work hand in hand with one another to support our collective mission of building community in the areas we live and work.

Bars & Restaurants

Korean Polish street eats, pizza, fried chicken and ice cream as well as craft beer and cocktails.


Material Magazine, Lumpen Magazine, The Quarantine Times, and Mash Tun Journal


Public Media Institute (PMI) is the parent org of many of our publications, media entities, spaces and initiatives.


Collectively with our partners we want to build a community of the future in which we can work live and play in.

Our Projects