The owner-curators of Sideshow Gallery describe their foundational aesthetic as “morbid curiosity with a sense of humor.” Opened in 2013 by artist and teacher Anne Elliott and Revolution Tattoo co-owner Cheri Basak, this pioneering enterprise on Chicago’s Western Avenue is an alchemical hybrid of shop, exhibition venue, event space, and community haven for unconventional creatives, collectors, and the occult-curious.
The ground-floor storefront is an immersive environment where taxidermy specimens and one-of-a-kind vintage artifacts compete for space with artisan jewelry, books, tarot decks, crystals, and candles. A “spell bar” and apothecary offer inspiration for would-be witches and less mystical types just looking for a little self-care.
Up the stairs, an atmospheric refurbished parlor hosts exhibitions by underground artists from Chicago and beyond. Elliott, in her guise as the Demon Cleaner, offers expert tarot readings here (by appointment), and classes led by a coven of collaborators train students in tarot, taxidermy, and other offbeat arts and crafts.
In recent years, Sideshow events—which spill onto a rear patio in good weather—have included fundraisers for organizations supporting social justice and reproductive rights. Even if Sideshow’s proprietors dare to declare that “magic is real,” they know that magic doesn’t just happen on its own—you have to make it. With an inclusive spirit and iconoclastic attitude, their shop is a good place to start.