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An Interview with Pest Control Mag

Recent SAIC alumni discuss their new magazine, inspirations, and mutual aid.

By Literature

Photos courtesy of Claire Bentley.

Jessie McCarty: Tell me about the birth of Pest Control Magazine and the team behind it. 

Claire Bentley: With graduating, and the pandemic happening, it became a good time to start a publication. I (BFAW 2020) was in talks about it with my roommate Julia Hornedo (BFA 2020), who is a part of the [Pest Control] team, as well as Emma (Sielaff, 2020 BFA New Media, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), since she had experience in doing a publication at University of Illinois Urbana. 

We have a staff of seven: Emma Sielaff, Julia Hornedo, Tatiana Rodriquez (2020 BA Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago), KC Smith (2020 BFAW), Molly Bryson (2020- BA Art History and Creative Writing, Oberlin College) and T.A Harris (BFAW 2020) and me, Claire Bentley. But it is an even split of School of the Art Institute students and friends from Chicago who have a writing or literary background of some sort. 

What’s your first edition looking like? Can you tell us of beginning goals and how submissions have changed those?

Emma Sielaff: For this issue, we have a lot of really fun writing and imagery. This will be forms of story-telling; a book of collections. 

Claire Bentley: As long as there is a story behind what you’re sending, we want it. Pest Control has honed in on a maximalist view: We don’t want it to be a thing of white space and images. I want our magazine to be this really cool thing you spy it in the corner of a room at a bookstore, wherever you are. I don’t want this magazine to be just for artists or writers. I want it to be for anybody, anybody who is interested in hearing about stories. 

We are doing this remotely, but I want to think about viewing the publication in a certain space and time, so that it becomes like a relic for future issues. When I go into Quimby’s for what interests me, I like being able to relate to the place that I’ve lived in and am currently living in. But it’s been hard to find that. 

Would you like readers to look back on this magazine and see it as a relic of COVID Chicago in 2020? 

Claire Bentley: We try to stray away from specific talk of living in the pandemic. Right now we are in the heart of COVID-19, it’s not a time for reflecting. Now is more an escape, a place to view people’s work and either relate or not relate. 

As of 2020, It’s been a cool thing to see how many submissions we’ve gotten just from people who have seen our posters on the street. 

Photos courtesy of Claire Bentley.

Emma, you were the one who designed that, right?

Emma Sielaff: Yeah! I was working at Spudnik Press at the time in West Town, within a large artist warehouse, so it was really accessible for us to use their printers. It was riso-printed, and I wanted to do something simple to print on the risograph that could be mass produced in a reoccurring matter. I was thinking bold and fun. But still chaotic in a way that we have been.

Let’s segue into Pest Control’s sense of inspiration and ongoing goals. 

Claire Bentley: A big visual influence for me is Steve Krakow’s “Secret History of Chicago Music.” It’s a little blurb he puts in the Chicago Reader. I found it because he had published a compilation (through Plastic Crimewave). Just seeing him talk about looking, in an illustrated comic, for music that has been overlooked was really cool. 

Emma Sielaff: A big inspiration for me coming off working at the Collective Magazine at the UIC, was still wanting to do magazine work. Rookie Magazine is something that will always be the best, RIP Rookie! Another few are the Smudge, which is Clay Hickson’s thing. So Young Magazine, out of London focuses on the music scene there, but I enjoy their aesthetics. A few of my friends have been interviewed through them. 

Aesthetics aside, what’s your ethos for editing with such a large staff? 

Tatiana Rodriguez: It’s necessary for us to not only have an awareness of the space we take up but asking, what can we materialize? Our publication realizes the transformative power of art — something we wanted to embody through the pages and beyond. 

Claire Bentley: Pest Control Magazine is a predominantly white team, and so many art-literary spaces are already that, so it’s important to recognize our privilege in that world within Chicago. We decided early on we would give back a percentage of the proceeds from our profits of the sales to a rotating list of mutual aid funds. For the first issue we decided on the American Indian Center, which is the biggest mutual aid organization in Chicagoland for Native American Indigenous peoples. We have been in contact with them and plan to highlight their organization for Indigenous People’s Day. Ideally, as we grow, that list will change. 

Tatiana Rodriguez: Our publication is having a larger conversation on editing in an honest way. It’s not a familiar concept in a lot of publications to receive feedback on your work, period. When we are in conversation with our contributors, we focus on what we particularly found successful in a piece of writing and what could lend to other opportunities in their work. As long as we aren’t being judgmental, and using our talents to offer this feedback, that’s how we are building community. 

What does being a Pest mean to you all, as a team? How did the idea of Pest Control come about?

Tatiana Rodriguez: I remember Julia saying “We need to have opinions,” regarding editorial practices, the type of art we are producing ourselves that go into the magazine, publishing independently. It’s important we have curatorial backbone. Pest Control does lend itself to that sort of independent grittiness. 

Claire Bentley: The name started a bit of a joke. Me and Julia were driving and we passed by Rose Pest Control on North Avenue. Many magazines are just random words that just people think of, and that was something we were joking about. The name is something we can work with the imagery if we wanted to; but can also stray away. For example, we started tiny prompts. This issue [prompts] being on Dreams, whether in their sleep or in real life- and asking, what is a pest to you? Meaning, what is a “Pest”? What bothers you? What do people look down on? 

Any last words for potential Pest Control readers and release dates? 

Emma Sielaff: I’m so excited for Issue One, tentatively expected to be out this fall. 

Tatiana Rodriguez: Even before we release, we are talking about different ways to communicate with different publications. We are trying to have a partnership with the AIC moving forward, being active on our social media page, and ways we can be closely safe with our supporters in a virtual space, building community with them. Shout-out Divine. I am very proud of us thus far. We all work really well together. We hold one another accountable, and a lot of positive reinforcement. We are all excited for what this is and what it will be. 

Claire Bentley: For anyone who reads this article, we hope to have some sort of distribution event. A virtual reading is taking place on Thursday, October 29th. And I want to shout out the rest of the staff: Julia, KC, Harris, Molly.  It’s so humbling there are people excited to make things and be with me to make things. I’m really appreciative. 

Photos courtesy of Claire Bentley.

You can keep read, submit and keep up with Pest Control Magazine and their first Issue on Instagram:

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