'Cicada Parade-a': Sculptures swarm Chicago area as artistic tribute to emergent insects

In a matter of weeks, Chicagoland will be buzzing with two broods of periodical cicadas that are emerging after 13 and 17 years underground. They are known as Brood XIII and Brood XIX, and their overlap is rare.

Look out, though – there is another brood that will be making itself at home in the city and suburbs this summer.

Some might dread their appearance, but many are celebrating the return of the cicadas, and one local museum is helping the public get in on the action.

In the city's Avondale neighborhood, hundreds of cicadas that are ‘burrowing’ in the basement of The Insect Asylum are ‘molting’ for the emergence of Cicada Parade-a 2024.

"We're really big on community, and we're really big on art," said Nina Salem, founder, The Insect Asylum.

Dubbed the Cicada Parade-a, the large-scale collaborative art project was launched by Michael Bowman of Formstone Castle in Baltimore in 2021.

"Sort of had an idea to do something that celebrated emerging from the darkness that was the pandemic, and that’s what grew into the Cicada Parade-a," said Bowman.

Now, the project is re-emerging in Chicago beginning in early May – and this ‘brood’ of cicadas will be arriving in style.

"We're expecting this to be about six times as big as Baltimore," said Bowman.

Made from plaster and adorned with copper wire legs, each cicada sculpture measures about a foot-and-a-half long. They are all made in-house at The Insect Asylum and come with hooks so they can easily be displayed.

"We have over 600 cast currently, we have 300 out into the community already," said Salem.

Many of the sculptures are being decorated by local artists in an effort to showcase their work. Interested artists will receive a free cicada if they agree to display their finished piece publicly.

Organizations are also sponsoring the bugs and anyone at home can purchase and paint one, too!

"We are planning on casting as many as the community wants us to," said Salem.

Plus, it’s all for a good cause. The money raised will support The Insect Asylum’s educational mission.

On Monday, April 22, the museum will celebrate its two-year anniversary in Avondale. The vision behind it is to teach eco-sustainability, post-mortuary arts, animal education and sciences.

Salem says there's already been a lot of buzz around Cicada Parade-a.

"We’ve already had a ton of support from the suburbs, and we’ve even had people travel six hours by car to get their hands on cicadas. We’ve even had people start a cicada train, because we are not shipping them, so we had someone come in this week for people in New Orleans," said Salem.

Salem also shares why this summer's rare double emergence of cicadas should be celebrated.

"This year is particularly special because the emergence that we are going to see, hasn’t happened for 221 years," said Salem.

"To think about these animals, these insects have been living below us this entire time, without making their presence known, but still making an impact. They’re the quiet supporters, they’re the de-composters, they’re nurturing our trees, they’re cleaning our soil, and now we have the rare opportunity to witness them in the most vulnerable, rawest, last phase of their life," she added. "They’re coming out to celebrate their life together and to create new life."

Each cicada sculpture comes with a unique number. Soon, they will spread their wings and land in various Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs, where many of their locations will be searchable through an interactive online map.

To adopt your own cicada, each bug costs $75. The Insect Asylum is located at 2870 North Milwaukee Avenue.

To learn more about how to get involved with Cicada Parade-a 2024, click here.