A conversation with William Burton, curator of the 14th Street Artist Community Gallery, a space that aims to bridge the gap between seasoned and young artists and offer a place for the community to gather and enjoy all forms of art. Burton opened the now year-old gallery with mentor Robert Ketchens with the hope of revitalizing the Old North community. Burton, whose signature works showcase his unique wood burning technique, also shares his knowledge and creativity with area schools and has even lent his talents to juvenile detention centers for troubled youth. Collaborations with community organizations such as Old North Restoration Group, the Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis ArtWorks and Northside City Art Council have helped further his mission of revitalization through art. Most recently, he’s been on a quest across the country to research the birth of blues music in the United States. The artwork that emerged from his travels with Ketchens will be featured in a traveling exhibit that begins at the Crisp Museum at Southeast Missouri State University.
What is your current frame of mind? Happy. I try to stay as positive as possible, especially in the midst of this chaotic world.
When and where are you happiest? In my studio.
What is your favorite smell? Strawberries.
What is one word that describes you? Passionate.
What did you eat for breakfast today? An egg and cheese croissant.
What is your most marked characteristic? Loyalty.
What is your greatest weakness? I’m too nice.
What trait do you most admire in others? Passion.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life? My wife.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Patience.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Art.
Which living person do you most admire? Robert Ketchens.
With which historical figure do you most identify? Charles White.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, who or what would it would be? Myself—because of my faith, I do not believe in reincarnation, but the resurrection.
What is your most treasured possession? My family.
What is your greatest extravagance? My knowledge.
What is your greatest fear? To die for nothing; or foolishness.
Who are your favorite writers? Maya Angelou, Shirley LeFlore and the prophets of the Bible.
Which artist do you admire most? Charles White.
What is your favorite hobby? Training dogs.
Where would you like to live? In the tropics.
Who are your heroes in real life? My mother, father and siblings.
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be? My granddad. When I was researching the blues, I learned a lot about him that I didn’t know.
What are you most looking forward to? Turning 50 years old.
What is one thing you wish would happen? That I would win the lottery.
What is one thing you want to do before you die? See my works being collected by museums.
If you could say something to your younger self, what would it be? Don't take life for granted.