We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Chevalier and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Justin, why did you pursue a creative career?
It naturally came to me – a gift, perhaps! I always gravitated to the arts as a kiddo and was forever creating something out of nothing. At the same time, I needed art and creativity to heal me, to cope and enlighten me, through some very heavy and confusing moments. What I find beautiful about my journey is that as I continue to grow, art allows me this continual expression, and relief, in what ever circumstance I may find myself. In my life that has been very valuable because it allows me to perceive possibility regardless the conditions of a moment. That happens in both my acting and my visual art business and in order to further explore that for myself and demonstrate the lessons, perspective and possibly to others, I have committed my life to this work. Everyone has the ability to be creative and if I can be a vessel to demonstrate that/inspire others to support themselves in that effort, then my soul is gonna be one happy camper.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Big questions here! In my artwork, I try to offer a reflection of myself and the perspectives I encounter – whether it’s through my lived experience or learned. I think myself a hopeful person and absolutely love the opportunity that we have to live. I hope my gratitude for that opportunity comes through in all of my work and I believe it does help me connect with people. I always feel like someone is rooting for me.

My work consists of two brands, my acting work and my visual arts business, Chevalier ArtCo. What came first? Well, acting back home in Houston, TX. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creating characters and developing something out of nothing. It tickles me that as a kid I’d be fully entertained using a blanket to create different characters. I wonder what that must’ve looked like. I auditioned for my first play in seventh grade and then I never really stopped performing from that moment on.

Simultaneously, I was fascinated by artwork. I was so curious about how a concept was visualized that I taught myself how to draw and then to paint with acrylics. I practiced by replicating older Ecuadorian art my AbueLita would bring my mother from trips to Ecuador. It was a very peaceful learning experience. That experience, along with my love for storytelling, led to my decision to major in acting and take design courses at Hofstra University. Balancing the two focuses then, prepared me for creativity later in New York City. I graduated and I started auditioning for theatrical productions and opened up my artwork for personalized commissions. To my surprise, the commissions came in clutch as a passive side hustle.

Money becomes a very real responsibility when you’re out there adulting, so, I started working other side hustles that helped pay the bills and allowed me flexibility as I built up my work. The side work ranged from selling concession in Broadway theatres to paint and sip instruction to a sales job for tech in the arts. Oddly enough, it was the sales job that led to some unique opportunities. The job itself does great work for the arts, however, it was intense and time consuming. It did help put some money in my pocket, and that was helpful. You need money to pay the rent, but in our current system, I’ve learned that it can also help buy time and resources. Anyway, it was a few of the Broadway producers, who started the sales company, that noticed a painting I made for a coworker and, in what felt like out of nowhere, offered to commission me. I ended up painting guitars and a leather jacket for the opening of Hadestown on Broadway, and then, shortly after, was asked to paint a coat for an actor attending the Tony Awards. This brought my visual art some attention and I noticed people started reaching out more. I realized my value in that process, raised my prices some, and began to see a more serious path for my artwork as a form of additional income and a way to get my name, Justin Chevalier, out there.

At one point, I found myself acting in shows, working a full time job that pushed over 40 hours a week, taught painting classes at a Paint and Sip part time, and was steadily working on commissions. Now, I don’t recommend a schedule like this for fun or the faint of heart, but when you have soul work to do and financial circumstances that you can’t shake, you somehow manage. Flash forward to the year 2020. My acting work slowed down and everyone was talking through screens. I kept active by doing Zoom readings of plays and commission work. I was also on furlough from my sales job and realized how much I was burning out pulling over 40 hrs a week in what was once a part time sales position. So I rested, we all need that, and then I had the thought to create Chevalier ArtCo.

Chevalier ArtCo. is my small business in the making and is an extension of the work I’ve been doing most of my life. I focus on creating work that evokes the essence of our nature, whether our nature be other people in our lives, memories, places that affect us, the plants that help us breathe. I always remain open to a mix of all of those elements because I personally am a mix. A mix of talents, a mix of beautiful black and brown culture, food, stories and there is something very special and empowering about that. My intention for this work in its future, is to create a company that connects with people and reminds them of what is beautiful or touching in this life – what can be appreciated. Furthermore, I’d like to see it raise awareness and bring financial gains to other young and old artists, visual arts and beyond, who are deserving of that attention.

Things I’ve learned and am reminded of, constantly. You’ve got to want it! You’ve got to save unless money isn’t an issue for you. You also have to spend some money to make some. Talent alone isn’t always going to work things out for you. You have to be willing to show up, ask questions, do research, be kind, let frustration pass and always be humbled by adjustments. Patience is a necessary discipline. And, marketing your work doesn’t have to feel icky or self absorbed – if you care about the work, sometimes it’s necessary for your survival! Believe in you!

I’ve become a multi-faceted artist and that, at first, made me nervous as all hell because I wondered how I would be able to make both careers happen and where I would find the time to accomplish goals and survive, respectively. It is important to know that still am confronted with this, at times, but I think about it differently now. I realized, after listening to a podcast with Justina Blakeney and Brené Brown, that my existence, my culture, my skills are a mix of so many brilliant things and that my work can reflect that. I am both actor and visual artist, they work in tandem. My view is that I’m lucky enough to have different means of expression and with a little bit of manifesting, hustle and rest I can do it! I’m excited about my future and proud of my efforts.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Houston, Texas baby! It’s always getting better every time I return home to visit family. My must see and must do’s are simple. Food and nature and then more food. I’m convinced Houston has some of the best food the country. There, I said it… and I live in NYC. So, you’ve got to get Shipley’s donuts, my favorite are the donut holes. El Bolillo Bakery because who doesn’t love sweet bread. Frenchy’s, Papadeaux, Boudin balls from The Captains, China Sticks, the original Ninfas with pechuga sauce on everything, breakfast tacos from Taqueria Arandas and their horchata, Barnaby’s, Niko, Nikos, Telewink for some damn good breakfast, Luby’s because it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Honestly, there are so many restaurants (and I’m leaving tons out) but any fried seafood, bbq or Tex-Mex gets my heart skipping a few beats. It’s also a requirement to have as much Bluebell ice cream as you can manage, I miss it everyday.

Drinks/going out wise, I don’t know much about, but midtown looks poppin.

Places to see. Museum and theatre districts are a must. Houston has great art all over the place, the talent is hot! I love Discovery Green and Herman Park. The Pavillon at Herman Park is lovely lovely. The Baybrook and Galleria are cool and so is the Montrose area if you are looking for a funky little time. Lots of shops and small businesses in that area, as well as The Heights. I also think it’s mandatory to visit areas like 3rd ward and 2nd ward. That’s mostly because I was raised and lived in both areas. The culture of those two areas is what shaped my view of Houston before I knew other areas existed. Those two areas are developing super fast too, so shops and restaurants are also all over the place. I used to love the Reggae Hut’s jerked chicken, but I think they are closed now, sad! There also used to be this place called Loma Lindas that had the best enchiladas… and Frenchy’s peach cobbler, really speaks to me. Here I go talking about food again!

Honestly, I’m away from home often so I leave my new discoveries to whatever spots my mom, but mostly my sister, is raving about!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I must give thanks to all that inspires me, but I’ll try to keep brief. I’ll always begin with my family and my Latino and Black heritage, for teaching me what love looks like and their support. When love moves around with you it brings more hope and drive to your actions. I’ve learned what it’s like to look up, look on, and put one foot in front of the other from my family. I thank my teachers and colleagues who have shared with me. Who taught me what discipline looks like and how to start and see a process through. Learning how to study my process has also helped make each new project a humbled experience. Shoutout to Hofstra University, my alma mater, for giving me space to play and cultivate my skills. Thanks to all the creatives I have worked with who have opened doors for me from pals in the Broadway community to Netflix to those who have commissioned me to those who share inspo with me – it all means a lot!

Website: www.chevalierartco.com

Instagram: @justinchevalier @chevalierartco

Facebook: Justin Chevalier

Other: Chevalier ArtCo email – chevalierartco@gmail.com Acting/personal inquiries – justinCChevalier@gmail.com

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