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Juan William Chávez: Sun Hive

Exhibition Details

Juan William Chávez: Sun Hive
April 7 - May 14

Opening Reception: Friday, April 7, 6-8pm

Artful Conversation
Wednesday, April 26 at 6pm in the gallery

Join Lisa Melandri, Director of the Contemporary Art Museum, and Juan Chavez will have a conversation about Juan's work in the gallery.

Juan William Chávez is a local multi-media artist and cultural activist whose art reflects his environment. As Founder and Director of the Northside Workshop since 2012, Chávez has created a nonprofit art space dedicated to addressing cultural and community needs in North Saint Louis. Its home is in a restored brick building that resulted from a close collaboration between the Old North Saint Louis Restoration Group, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation and Chávez. The Northside Workshop offers programming and projects that incorporate socially engaged art and education. Neighbors are able to participate in art classes, help in their garden or just have a place to gather. Alongside the large vegetable garden, Chávez has placed two bee hives, where he tends to bees as a self-taught beekeeper.

Chávez’s most recent art practice has centered on beekeeping. For Chávez, this is a meditative time, void of conversation, a time to listen and observe the busy hum of this kingdom. In that miniature community, everybody has an important role to play and all jobs are done with honor and pride. Chávez’s respect for the bee ecosystem informs his art making and approach to activism.

Sun Hive is a grouping of works that meld his bee keeping practice with aspects of his cultural identity. Chávez, born in Peru and raised in St. Louis, absorbed his family customs from a young age. As he gathers pieces of equipment used in beekeeping, Chávez has begun creating small altars and totems to honor his bees. Delicately arranging the pieces together, he juxtaposes Alpaca yarn collected from Peru, with his personal worn hand shovels wrapped in golden brass—a medal of honor for its service. In one work, Chávez places a blanket on the ground, similar to the customs of Peruvian Shaman. Referencing the ceremony of the Shaman, Chávez carefully arranges select nontraditional objects that honor nature, family, and bee culture. I really appreciated working with Chávez on developing this thoughtful and perceptive exhibition. Chávez’s work pays homage to labor, craft, materials and culture.

Stefanie Kirkland
Director of Exhibitions

Juan William Chávez is an artist and cultural activist who creates and shares space in the built and natural environment to address community identified issues. His studio practice incorporates drawings, films, photographs, architectural interventions, and unconventional forms of beekeeping and agriculture that utilize art as a way of researching, developing and implementing creative placemaking and socially-engaged projects. He has received awards and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, Graham Foundation and Art Matters foundation. Chávez holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.