Chicago’s Cult Runner Design Crew on the City That Fuels Their ‘Make Cool Shit’ Aesthetic


'Distasteful Tastemakers'


December 28, 2018

There’s an industrial area on the near west side of Chicago. It’s the kind of street where factories, scrap yards, artists, and adventurous start-ups collide. There’s a coffee shop and an old-school hot dog stand. It’s a very “Chicago” street, one of the many places in the city that refuses to become hip. There’s an old van parked here with a younger guy in some type of Hawaiian shirt standing in front. That’s “CT,” the founder of Cult Runner. I asked him and some of his collaborators just what they’re all about, and what they like most about their city.

“Cult Runner started back in 2013 after I realized the romance of the advertising world wasn’t very, well, romantic,” CT says. “I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it can be very, very difficult to wait around for the people upstairs to green light your every move.” CT says he began to see the many egos, politics, personalities, approvals, opinions, and time sheets all around him and decided there was something massively missing from his life. “I missed the fun and rawness of making cool shit with my homies like I did in art school,” he says. And so he started started Cult Runner.

Hand-painted, Frisco Tank detail for the ‘Bottom Feeder Build.’ PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE SPIZZIRRI.

Mike Spizzirri

I am a Chicago-based creative obsessed with everything design and skateboard culture. I currently work as a designer for a scooter manufacturer, Tilt, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Outside of my full-time design position, I’m always working on other projects. I originally gravitated to Cult Runner because they created things for a wider demographic while still maintaining their identity, whether it’s trendy or not.

I have by no means “made it” yet, but I’m in the current position I’m in because of my hard work. I get to design for a living, and I never take it for granted. I respect anyone who gets uncomfortable and tries new ways to find solutions despite the struggle. The most successful designers I look up to live and breathe their work and never stop learning.

Chicago’s very diverse. There’s so much untapped creative potential that sometimes gets overshadowed by other large cities like New York or LA. We’re a little more rough around the edges here. I feel this applies to art and design.

Troubled Times,’ screen print on manila cardstock. ILLUSTRATION BY ERIK LUNDQUIST.

Erik Lundquist

I’ve been working for Pipeworks Brewing and making new work in the studio for upcoming group shows. I make art most of the time. Most people I know have a job and make art damn near full-time as well. A lot of hustling and working overtime. You have to really enjoy your practice to work this way and continue to progress. Eventually the work becomes more constant and fruitful. Takes time, persistence, a little luck, and surrounding yourself with solid humans.

I’m coming up on two decades of riding a skateboard, so those are my people. On or off a board, skateboarders are some of the most creative, persistent, and dedicated people I’ve come across. They know shit doesn’t come easy and you have to put in work to make things happen. That mindset transfers over to the creative process.

This city also has a rich history in amazing hand-painted signage. There are groups of sign painters keeping that torch burning and making some really quality work that’s meant to last.


Louie Capozzoli

I work as the graphic designer for Land and Sea Dept and do freelance and my own art on the side. I recently finished up a project for the Blackhawks and right now I’m designing a tour poster, painting a motorcycle tank, and creating a small print series.

Chicago is a tough city, and the people who live here work really hard, and there are a lot of artists who fit that mold. The community is huge but can feel small at times. We all do our own thing and lend a hand when needed. I live in Logan Square right now. It’s great—trees, pretty quiet, right on the boulevard close to my studio. In the summer there are always festivals and markets in the streets. It’s a good hub for different creative types.

I was first drawn to Chicago’s gig poster and screenprinting community. There’s a lot of great artists and illustrators who have been doing it for awhile, like Sonnenzimmer and Bill Connors. There’s also a ton of really amazing, self-publishing alternative comic artists here.

Hand-built coffin painted with acrylic. Made for gettin’ loose and rollin’ dice. BUILT BY ADAM LUNDQUIST.

Adam Lundquist

My art is heavily influenced by skateboarding, rock and roll music and album art, and tattoo imagery, among other things. I graduated from Southern Illinois University with a BFA in printmaking. Some recent projects I am proud to be a part of would be displaying work on the art wall at Uprise Skateshop in Chicago as well as assisting my buddy Ben Marasco and brother Erik Lundquist in painting the Vans Park Series skate bowl in Huntington Beach for the 2018 Vans U.S. Open.

My favorite part about the creative community in Chicago is that art, music, skateboarding, tattooing, and beer drinking all coexist. I like how you can go to one event and somehow be able to skateboard, hear good music, see some rad art or live painting, see custom vans and choppers, all while drinking beer from local breweries. It’s always a good time.

I currently live in Avondale. It’s a Hispanic neighborhood where there are always Sunday fiestas going on and people pushing around elote and ice cream carts, and people are always outside.

Cult Runner Recommends:
Best Intentions
The Chip Inn
Crown Liquors
Dante’s Pizza
EZ Inn
GO Tavern & Liquors
Longman & Eagle
Parson’s Chicken & Fish
Pipeworks Brewing
Red Hot Ranch
Revolution Brewing
Small Bar
Sportsman’s Club

More Chicago Artists to Watch:
Ryan Duggan
Joe Flores
Brown Brothers Tattoo
Neckbeard Skates

SS10 cover