Projects > Indianapolis Bee Sanctuary

These connected projects — related to bees, beekeeping, culture, and community — include an outdoor installation and a resulting exhibit developed by Juan William Chávez, an artist and cultural activist based in St. Louis, during his six-week residency at Tube Factory. To view more images

The Indianapolis Bee Sanctuary is a 5-year project in the green space adjacent to Tube Factory that promotes environmental stewardship with the philosophy that a better environment for bees is a healthy environment for humans. This is fostered through Chávez’s pollinator-friendly hexagon design and is associated with a multi layered community outreach program. Located in the Tube Factory’s community garden, the Bee Sanctuary features a multi-color hexagon pattern concrete floor that houses two beehives. Surrounding the hives is a hexagon-shaped cedar eco wall filled with organic soil and is filled with an abundance of native plants and flowers for bees throughout the seasons. The Bee Sanctuary invites the public to wear beekeeping suits to observe and interact with the hives through a multi layered community outreach program that embraces the urban ecosystem, arts education and job training. The Bee Sanctuary embraces the concept of working as a hive. Chávez teamed up with Bee Public, Solful Gardens and TeenWorks on the construction of the sanctuary. TeenWorks is a six-week summer employment and college readiness program for high school seniors. Along with helping build, TeenWorks young people experienced several educational workshops that focus on ecology, plant biology, landscape design, beekeeping and entrepreneurship. Public programming continues over the next five years related to the Bee Sanctuary.

In Tube Factory’s main gallery, Chávez exhibits Mesa Hive, a multimedia Installation that highlights the process and construction of the Indianapolis Bee Sanctuary. The installation is presented on a large Mylar survival blanket with carefully arranged objects and artifacts created and harvested during the construction process. These objects are juxtaposed with new paintings made by Chávez during the residency. The survival blanket is inspired by Chávez’s Peruvian heritage. It references Mesa, a multicolored bundle containing various sacred objects used for healing in Andean shamanic rituals typically associated with a Huaca, a monument or natural location that represents something revered. The exhibition also includes photo and video documentation of TeenWorks, Chávez, and Big Car artists working on the sanctuary. Documentation includes preparing over 300 hexagon concrete pavers and beekeeping and gardening activities in partnership with Bee Public and Solful Gardens. Mesa Hive is curated by Shauta Marsh.

“I’m inspired by artist Joseph Beuys’ works with bees. He viewed bees as a symbol of society due to the nature of how they live and work together. He was also fascinated by the alchemy of honey production and used honey in many of his works. The collectiveness of the hive is a powerful and natural way of living and working. Working together to transform ideas and space plays a major role in my work. Bees teach me how to work within a group, how to build space as a group, how to transform ideas to make honey, and the alchemy of the studio within an ecosystem. For me bees and humans are the same. We enjoy a lot of the same plants and smells. We need them and they need us. A better environment for the bees is a better environment for humans, and as humans we forget that we are part of an ecosystem. Bees remind me of that, which keeps me grounded and connected.

Over the last five years in St. Louis we’ve been honing our concept and practice of a bee sanctuary and feel we were in a position and had the right partnership to try to take that concept to a different city. We are super excited that Indianapolis and the Tube Factory were an ideal partnership for this project.” – Juan William Chávez

About Chávez

Juan William Chávez is an artist and cultural activist who creates and shares space in the built and natural environments to address community-identified issues. At the heart of Chavez’s practice is his studio research, which includes drawings, films, photographs, craft, labor, architectural interventions, and unconventional forms of beekeeping and agriculture. Chávez utilizes art as a way of researching, developing, and implementing projects of creative placemaking and social engagement. His exhibitions feature his studio research in the form of multimedia installations. Chavez has exhibited his work at venues such as ArtPace, Van Abbemuseum, McColl Center for Art + Innovation, 21c Museum Hotel, Laumeier Sculpture Park and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. His interdisciplinary approach to art has gained the attention and support of prestigious institutions like the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Creative Capital, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, ArtPlace America 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

Made Possible by: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, PNC, Penrod Arts Fair, Sun King, OCRA, Managed Health Services