October 27, 2012–January 20, 2013


Dana Turkovic,


October 27, 2012
View Gallery

Juan William Chávez compares urban population decline and bee colony collapse disorder in his exhibition, Living Proposal: Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary 20102012. The fusion of the aesthetic and the social promotes a public dialogue about Chávez’s field research period, which spans two years. Laumeier restages Chávez’s methodology from conception to its current state as a “living proposal” exploring the empty lot where the infamous and immense Pruitt-Igoe tower blocks in north central St. Louis were built and demolished between 1956 and 1973.

After the demolition of the towers in 1973, the remaining empty lot of several acres near downtown has, in the fullness of time, transformed into a habitat for various flora and fauna. Chávez explored the fenced-off site, increasingly intrigued by its state of disrepair a half-mile away from downtown St. Louis. Observing the number of bees that had claimed the woodland as their own, Chávez realized the sculptural comparisons between, and the metaphorical potential of, bee communities. Like the human population of St. Louis, honeybees are also on the decline, for various environmental reasons. Chávez sees the successful beehive as a metaphor for a sustainable community and an enduring civilization.

This exhibition highlights creative possibilities for the unoccupied land at Cass and Jefferson that encourages public dialogue and demonstrates the opportunity for the combination of art, nature and public space to provide a platform for reflection and education.

Download the Exhibition Catalog

Sponsors + SupportERS

Juan William Chávez: Living Proposal: Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary 20102012 is supported by St. Louis County Parks, the Regional Arts Commission, Missouri Arts Council, the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Mark Twain Laumeier Endowment Fund. The Kranzberg Exhibition Series is generously supported by Nancy and Ken Kranzberg.

The artist acknowledges the following foundations for their support of the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary project and the Living Proposal exhibition: Art Matters Foundation, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.


Juan William Chávez is an artist and cultural activist whose studio practice focuses on the potential of space by developing creative initiatives that address community and cultural issues. He was born in Lima, Peru, received his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and received his M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Chávez has exhibited in galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including Art in General, New York; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; Gallery 400, Chicago; White Flag Projects, St. Louis; Harris Lieberman Gallery, New York; and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. From 2006 to 2010, he co-founded and served as director for the Boots Contemporary Art Space, a nonprofit organization supporting emerging artists and curators. Since 2010, Chávez has focused on developing socially engaged art projects in North St. Louis, including Urban Expression for the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, the Northside Workshop and the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary. His awards include the Art Matters Grant, the Missouri Arts Award and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Grant. Chávez was named a 2012 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.