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Make your own Tribute Marker

The 50 sites selected for Music Lives Here only scratch at the surface of Chicago’s deep musical history. Add to the list by creating your own “Tribute Marker”. You can use the template provided in the Music Lives Here printed guide (available at all Chicago Public Library branches) or download the template below. Once you’ve created your “Tribute Marker”, place on or near your suggested site. Please make sure to ask for permission before posting your maker! 


Sonnenzimmer is the collaborative practice of artists Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi. Their work investigates and challenges preconceived notions of the graphic arts. Their experimental studio was established in 2006 in Chicago. Together, they explore the physical and psycho-physical nature of visualization through image-making, sculpture, writing, publishing, exhibitions, design, music, and performance. While they move through an array of media, their focus is on triangulating a deeper understanding of graphic expression at large.

Maya Bird-Murphy


Maya Bird-Murphy is a designer, multi-instrumentalist, and the founder of Chicago Mobile Makers, an award-winning nonprofit organization making design education more accessible in underrepresented communities. She believes that the field must expand to include more people and perspectives through teaching and community engagement. She loves Chicago and hopes to make her mark by making it a more equitable place to live. Maya was recently featured in Dwell Magazine and on Design Milk.

Photo: (from left to right) Nadine Nakanishi, Nick Butcher, and Maya Bird-Murphy


Artist Statement

Music is an ancient and ephemeral technology shared through the network of community. Chicago has played a special role in the development of modern music through the creativity and resilience of its various communities across the city. Many of the musical genres and styles developed in Chicago have been exported and enjoyed across the globe. Music in Chicago continues to expand and morph and develop. For that reason, the list of sites selected for Music Lives Here is incomplete, at best. In that light, this list can be seen as a tribute in itself, one to the musical spirit that continues to take form here in Chicago. 


As the physical landscape of Chicago continues to evolve, it’s worth contemplating why some of the physical sites remain and while others do not. As, we, the citizens of Chicago, continue to strive to make this a more just and equitable city, let’s remember that music is people first, so if we take care of each other music will continue to live here. 

About the Markers

The Music Lives Here Tribute Markers aim to create shapeshifting graphic encounters that stoke curiosity about Chicago’s musical landscape. Merging playful colors and forms with clear demarcation, we hope these graphic markers will inspire the casual passerby and enthusiast alike to contemplate the evolving and interconnected nature of the spaces, places, and people who have given shape to the music in the city. The shapes were developed through collaborative and improvisational studio sessions between Sonnenzimmer and Maya Bird-Murphy. The resulting designs were equally improvisational in their form-finding, aiming to give a unique character to each marker. 


As a way for the viewer to navigate and better understand the role of the individual sites, we’ve developed four distinctive categories; Distribute, Gather, Manufacture, and Broadcast. Rather than grouping the sites by musical genre, we’ve chosen to highlight the flow of information, with nods to the industrial history of the city. 


The icons developed for these categories represent typical building types and roof lines that you encounter on the city grid. The interlocking geometry found in the icons showcases the interconnectivity of the various activities represented. 

Aaron Cohen

Aaron Cohen teaches humanities and English composition at City Colleges of Chicago and writes for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, National Public Radio, and numerous other publications. His most recent book, Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power (University of Chicago Press), looks at the social and musical changes that shaped R&B in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s. His first book, Amazing Grace (33 1/3; Bloomsbury), analyzes Aretha Franklin’s popular 1972 soul-gospel album. Cohen has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar, DownBeat editor and is a two-time recipient of the Deems Taylor Award for outstanding music writing from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).


  1. Aaron Cohen, Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power (University of Chicago Press, 2019)

  2. Nadine Cohodas, Spinning Blues Into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records (St. Martin’s Press, 2001)

  3. John D’Emilio, Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago’s LGBTQ Archives (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

  4. Lilia Fernández, Brown In The Windy City: Mexicans And Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2012)

  5. Nelson George, The Hippest Trip In America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style (Morrow, 2014)

  6. Robert Gordon: Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters (Little, Brown, 2002)

  7. George E. Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008)

  8. Robert M. Marovich, A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music (University of Illinois Press, 2015)

  9. Dominic A. Pacyga, Chicago: A Biography (University of Chicago Press, 2009)

  10. Robert Pruter, Chicago Soul (University of Illinois Press, 1991)

  11. Micah E. Salkind, Do You Remember House? Chicago’s Queer of Color Undergrounds (Oxford University Press, 2019)

  12. Dempsey J. Travis, An Autobiography of Black Jazz (Academy Chicago, 1983)

  13. David Whiteis, Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories (University of Illinois Press, 2006)

Further Reading

Artists Special Thanks

Music Lives Here is the culmination of effort from many people. We would like to thank Lydia Ross, Director of Public Art, and the entire DCASE staff for instigating this project and guiding it through completion. We’d like to thank Tim Samuelson, the City of Chicago’s Cultural Historian, for the inspiring insights shared. Many thanks are due to Aaron Cohen for his extensive research and concise histories of the selected sites. Thank you to the Music Lives Here site section committee for doing the impossible job of narrowing the list down to fifty sites. Huge thanks to the City of Chicago’s core of photographers who captured the sites in their current state. Thank you to Matt Mesker for your assistance with website development. Finally, thank you to all the musicians and music lovers who have shaped the sound of this city.


DCASE Staff Special Thanks

Carlos Tortolero
David Chavez
Erin Harkey
Frayne Lewis
Lydia Ross
Mariam Thiam
Tim Samuelson

Additional Credits

Website Design: Sonnenzimmer
Website Assistance: Matt Mesker

Photography: All Site Photos by the City of Chicago

Music Lives Here Site Selection

Aaron Cohen
Ayana Contreras
Carlos Flores
Dave Hoekstra
Ernest Wilkins
Jose Luis Terrazas
Lori Branch 
Margaret Murphy Webb
Mateo Mulcahy
Pugs Atomz
Ramsey Lewis
Vince Lawrence

Music Lives Here is a multi-media project by Chicago graphic art studio Sonnenzimmer and Maya Bird-Murphy of Chicago Mobile Makers. The project was commissioned by the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Music Lives Here pays tribute to the spaces, places, and people that have shaped Chicago’s music landscape, past and present, in the form of unique graphic sidewalk markers installed at 50 sites across Chicago. The project is further supported by this website, a small print guide distributed to Chicago Public Library branches, and pop-up performances throughout the year. Music Lives Here is part of the City of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Music initiative. 

Visit the Sites

Visit the sites and follow the beat of Chicago’s rich musical history. Sites are spread across the expanse of the city. Use this website or download the map below for the site addresses. Visit the site, find the marker, and listen deeply. Keep in mind that many of the original structures may no longer be standing, but the spirit of the music lives on in you. Share your visit on social media using the following hashtags, #MusicLivesHere and #YearofChicagoMusic.

Learn more about the project.
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