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Chris Silva

Born in Puerto Rico, Chris Silva is a Chicago-based artist, musician, educator, and overall facilitator of urban design. Whether it is through graffiti, community murals, or large-scale installations that encourage collaboration, Silva’s artistic foundation emerges from the street. Silva’s practice is all-inclusive and democratic. It ranges from painting and found object assemblage to three-dimensional installations that include audio-collaged soundtracks. Deeply rooted in skateboarding and hip-hop culture, Silva incorporates music and sound to his practice, creating a continual dialogue between the phonic and the visual.

CNL Projects: What is one thing you feel you have learned or experienced as an artist that you feel you can share with your peers and emerging artists in the field?

Chris Silva: There is a lot of romanticizing of "the grind" of the creative career, and yes, to make good things happen you truly have to work hard, but the downside is that hustling for too long without breaks can really compromise both your physical and mental health. I won't sugar coat it - a full-time art career has got to be one of the hardest things to maintain without burning yourself out. The anxiety of economic insecurity can make you feel like you have to work non-stop, but challenging as it may be, you have to be extremely intentional about creating some kind of counterbalance to that. 

CNL: What’s something that you’re seeking from others in the field to support your practice? 

CS: One thing that should stop being a normal practice is asking professional artists to spend time generating site specific, theme-specific proposals without compensation. The blame for this is also on we artists who continue allowing it to happen, so I have started graciously refusing to do design proposals without stipends. If enough professional artists do the same then I think that practice will eventually phase itself out. 

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CNL: What’s a piece of advice you would share with other artists or cultural producers in your field?

CS: All artists are different and have different circumstances, so it's difficult to give good one size fits all advice. One thing I can say is that persistence is important. It takes a significant commitment of time to develop anything artistically worthwhile, and once you have, figuring how to support yourself with your art can be a constantly changing puzzle. Don't be in too much of a rush to support yourself entirely on your art. Non-art related day jobs can be a real blessing while you're working to find your voice or hone your craft.