Archetypes: Juan Williams Chavez
An interview with Juan William Chavez, cultural activist, artist and director of the Northside Workshop. The Peruvian artist focuses his work on creative initiatives to address community issues, most recently tackling the use of the abandoned lot that formerly housed STL’s infamous Pruitt-Igoe public housing development. The Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary began as a public proposal expressed through art, but Chavez recently received a grant from the New York-based nonprofit Creative Capital to put his plan into action.
What is your current frame of mind?
I’m constantly thinking about the arts in North St Louis.
When and where are you happiest?
What is your favorite smell?
The smell of the brewery right next to my house.
What is one word that describes you?
What did you eat for breakfast today?
A pineapple-soy smoothie and a sunny-side-up egg over broccoli and potatoes.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“What’s the word?”
What is your most marked characteristic?
My sense of humor.
What is your greatest weakness?
Watching drum solos on YouTube.
What trait do you most admire in others?
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I liked writing emails.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
When I won my Guggenheim.
Which living person do you most admire?
Right now, I really admire Rodriguez.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it would be?
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your greatest extravagance?
Going out to eat.
What is your greatest fear?
On what occasion do you lie?
At family events.
Who is your favorite artist?
Who is your favorite drummer?
John Bonham from Led Zeppelin.
What is your favorite hobby?
Where would you like to live?
In the Andes Mountains.
Who are your heroes in real life?
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
What’s something interesting that you just learned?
In St. Louis, the arts are a $582.3 million industry that has grown 4 percent since 2007.
What are you most looking forward to?
To continue working on the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary project.
What is one thing you wish would happen?
The arts would be more involved in developing neighborhoods.
What is something you still want to learn?
A musical instrument.
What is one thing you want to do before you die?
To help transform the Pruitt-Igoe forest into a public space that cultivates community.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be?
Learn a foreign language.
Juan William Chavez
Photo credit: Wesley Law