August 26, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Art is many things to artists, art lovers, critics, and scholars. Two-dimensional art has its passive, observable beauty on the wall or on the pedestal, but the stage is the canvas of the living theater. The stage is where The Union for Contemporary Art fellow Chantal Pavageaux puts her interdisciplinary skills to work to form a cohesive patchwork of ideas.

“Both my grandmothers were quilters,” Pavageaux says. “I grew up around sewing machines. I knit, sew, and craft elaborately. The foundations of patchwork and bricolage are in all of my artwork. I have always made things from what was around or left behind. I’m a bit of a magpie naturally, drawn to anything sparkly.”

Pavageaux is originally from Garland, Texas, about 15 miles outside of Dallas. She began her theater career acting in school productions. At age 5, she played Suzette, a kidnapped doll in It’s a Dungaree World. According to Pavageaux, everything about growing up in Garland fueled her future artistic goals.

“Being a cheerleader, [and] attending Catholic and Baptist churches exponentially increased my affinity for glitter, spectacle, extravagance, and pageantry,” Pavageaux says. “I think of the works I create as gifts, and therefore there is a commitment to specialness in the making.”

A voracious reader of science and science fiction, Pavageaux lets her inquisitive nature lead the way as she explores new art forms.

“My curiosity about the way things work feeds into my research-based, performance-making methodology. When I get interested in a subject, I will read every single book I can get my hands on in order to better understand the many facets of it,” Pavageaux says. “With my fellowship, I am currently following these curiosities and exploring new mediums. I have been painting and creating ceramics, in addition to creating the performance work with the In[HEIR]itance Project.”

Since 2014, Pavageaux and other members of The In[HEIR]itance Project have been creating plays based on extensive research of holy texts, historic documents, and current affairs to tell stories particular to different cities around central themes. The project began with fellow New York University classmate Jon Adam Ross and a grant from The Covenant Foundation to do five plays in five cities.

“We based each play on a different character from the book of ‘Genesis.’ We paired the cities and the characters, gathered artists, writers, and experts in the text like clergy and biblical scholars,” Pavageaux says. “We studied the cities and found connections between the community, the storytellers, and the story of the cities.”

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Seattle, Washington; Charleston, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Kansas City, Missouri, each ended up with their own community-created performances with box-office proceeds going back into the community. The project has since evolved and Omaha will be part of a new series based on another biblical text. 

“We are currently devising a piece based on the book of ‘Exodus’ with the refugee communities in Omaha,” Pavageaux says. “This is the second in a series based on Exodus. The first was created in Harlem in 2018 with formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and rabbinical students. We will have performances of Exodus: Resettlement in Omaha in November of 2019, and then the series will continue next year in Cincinnati and Norfolk, Virginia.”

A new series based around water will begin in Miami in 2020, expanding over the next few years to New Orleans, Houston, Flint, Las Vegas, and Tel Aviv.

“I am very excited to see how the different projects and new mediums start to influence and cross-pollinate each other,” Pavageaux says.


Visit The In[HEIR]itance Project for more information. 

This article was printed in the September 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Chantal Pavageaux

Chantal Pavageaux