On March 16, 1972, at approximately 3:00PM, a series of small explosions flashed inside an 11-story high-rise in North St. Louis. Only 16 years old this complex was the first of 33 buildings to be demolished by the federal government. Over the next four years the remaining 32 buildings were destroyed leaving behind a massive empty lot.
39 years later this vacant lot has slowly transformed into an impressive urban forest camouflaging the history of one of the worst failures of public housing in American history.
In the spring of 2010 I entered this forest expecting the remains of a community but was surprised to see the beginning of another. What was once an unnatural environment for one had become a natural habitat for another. I saw bees.
The Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary is a proposal for the City of St Louis to transform the urban forest where the Pruitt-Igoe housing development once stood into a public space that cultivates community through beekeeping and preserving the 33 acres of green space. Drawing parallels to the depleting population of bees and shrinking cities, this interdisciplinary project-in-progress aims to redirect the conversation surrounding Pruitt-Igoe by developing creative strategies that both memorialize the past and embrace the future. By envisioning potential in urban abandonment, we could transform one of the worst failures of public housing into a leading example of revitalization.
Born in Lima, Peru, Juan William Chávez is an artist and cultural activist who explores the potential of space through creative initiatives that address community and cultural issues. Chávez founded Boots Contemporary Art Space (2006-2010), a non-profit organization that offered support to emerging artists and curators.Since 2010, Chávez has focused on socially-engaged projects and collaborations in North Saint Louis. Projects include Urban Expression for the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary and Northside Workshop. He has received awards and grants from Creative Capital, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Art Matters and the Gateway Foundation. Chávez holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
To get involved in the Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary or to inquire about artist lectures,
panel discussions, socially engaged workshops, interviews and press images
please contact Chavez at the following.
2307 Cherokee St. 3rd fl
Saint Louis, MO 63118