Chat Travieso, a 2007 Cooke Graduate Scholar, is a talented architect committed to using socially conscious and creative art to make positive changes in low-income communities around New York City. In 2015, the Cooke Foundation awarded him a $10,000 Matthew J. Quinn Prize in recognition of his outstanding service to his community.
After graduating from Yale School of Architecture in 2010 with a master’s degree, Chat worked as an architectural and urban designer for WXY Architecture + Urban Design, an award-winning multi-disciplinary practice focused on innovative approaches to design. Chat shared with the Foundation that, “The years I worked there taught me a great deal about design and construction, project management, community planning, and working with city agencies.”
By late December 2012, Chat had decided to begin his own cross-disciplinary and community-focused art and design practice, and in January 2013 he began working with community organizations and others to create public art projects that reflected the essence of the neighborhoods in which they were created.
Since then, in collaboration with a variety of community organizations in New York City, Chat’s public art projects have made a positive artistic and environmental impact. His partnerships with the Architectural League of New York, New York Department of Transportation, and few other organizations have produced public art installations that have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and several urban design periodicals.
“Over the past couple of years, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working closely with community members to create a little free library/bench outside a housing development in the Lower East Side (Word Play), a sprinkler system that attaches to a fire hydrant for children to cool off in the summer (CoolStop), and foldable seats for the elderly outside a housing development in Brooklyn (Sit Anywhere: Borinquen Plaza). To create these pieces I facilitated a number of design workshops to learn from and work with many people in the community.”
One of the community organizations Chat has collaborated extensively with is Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, a community development organization serving the diverse neighborhoods of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For his “World Play” installation, Chat worked with the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and students from its after-school program to develop a site-specific book shelter and bench that attaches to a fence outside a housing development in New York City’s Lower East Side. The project captures the cultural diversity of the neighborhood by incorporating a visual effect that shows the word “LIBRARY” in English, Spanish, and Chinese all at once.
Chat shared that ever since he started his practice, he has “created playful and functional public art projects that have made a tangible impression in communities.” He went on to explain that by engaging with local residents, businesses, and community groups in various stages of a project, his work “considers ways cities can be more open to communities that are often excluded from dominant systems of urban development by offering innovative, uplifting and visually striking responses to people’s everyday needs.”
“In some ways, this work is meant to be about creating a more open and just city – especially toward communities that are often excluded,” Chat explains in our newest scholar spotlight video. Watch to see how Chat’s public arts projects are designed to be utilized and enjoyed by residents: