Art in Action, by Matthew “Levee” Chavez | Speed Interview
The Children’s Book Review | December 18, 2018
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe Art in Action: Make a Statement, Change Your World?
Matthew “Levee” Chavez: Curious, fun, challenging, transforming, thoughtful.
Can you share one highlight from the book?
I absolutely loved writing about creative identity in chapter two. When I was younger I wasn’t particularly good at “art” and I had a very narrow definition of what art was. In chapter two and in other parts of the book I talk about how my creative process more closely resembles the process of a scientist or explorer. Now, that excites me and drives me to create innovative work. I hope that readers who might be struggling with rigid conceptualizations of their identity as a creative person can break out of typical molds and start being innovative much earlier than me.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
The best reactions to Art in Actionare actions. I love seeing participatory installations pop up in schools where my books reside. Recently I traveled to Gilroy, California, where I grew up, and went into a classroom where a student had come up with the prompt “I would like to . . .” and forty or so students wrote on sticky notes responding to it. I love seeing students driving the ship, and I think books like mine help give them the wheel.
Why do you think books like yours are an important part of a child’s home library?
I think books like Art in Actionare important to the libraries of children because they provide young people with tools they can use as their interests in the world around them grow. In any professional field tools help to amplify strengths. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and artisans all use tools to help them do what they do best better. Creative people need ideological tools that help them capture ideas from life, and transform them into something else. Like an artisan might use a wheel to spin fiber from worms into silk, a creative young person might pick up Art in Actionto transform an idea into action.
For your writing energy: Sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Salty and sweet snacks are one of my great loves. When I’m writing, or working on something creative, I’ll usually have a bag of blended cheddar and caramel popcorn nearby or something along those lines. I think I tend to like the intersections between contrasting tastes. Something about liminal flavor spaces keeps my brain firing fast.
Writing tools: Computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
I mostly write on paper. I don’t really like rigid forms, so writing on the computer is a bit too robotic for my taste. I like to write, scratch, and doodle wherever I feel inclined to on XL 9 × 12 notebooks with markers.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
My nightstand usually has a notebook and a recorder. You never know when you are going to wake up with a good idea.
Can you tell us something that even your most loyal fans may not know about you?
I think even my most loyal fans may not know how often I fail at bringing my ideas to life. One of my greatest challenges as a creative person is following through. I’ll have a great idea, get distracted, and forget about it. It’s really frustrating, but in some ways I think it’s all right because I usually come back to the best ones.
Written by Matthew “Levee” Chavez
Publisher’s Synopsis: In the days leading up to and following the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, artist Matthew “Levee” Chavez arrived at the Union Square subway station and passed out blank sticky notes, urging New Yorkers to express themselves. As the notes were posted to the wall, a colorful and moving collage emerged that reflected the city’s rich and diverse personal responses to a divisive moment in history. In that moment, art and activism united a community. In this DIY guide, Chavez shows young readers how to create their very own art projects with a purpose. Young artists will be inspired to share their own perspectives and make a difference in their own worlds-from their homes to schools to neighborhoods and the whole broader world.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books | September 11, 2018 | 978-1681197562
About the Author
Matthew “Levee” Chavez is the creator of Subway Therapy, an ongoing immersive project at the Union Square subway station in Manhattan. A believer in the therapeutic power of communication and providing people with an opportunity to engage, he has worked in crisis management and education in a variety of different roles, including at a magnet school for students with autism. He is a natural born listener–strangers have always talked to him on buses, trains, subways, and planes, and sidewalks. He lives in Brooklyn.
This speed interview with Isabel Thomas, author of the Little Guides to Great Lives, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Art, Artistic Expression, Artists, Books With Activism, Non-Fiction, and Speed Interview.