That’s the unofficial motto of part-lovable goofball, part-clinically insane, full-on artist and entrepreneur Chris Sabatino, owner of Art Monster on Cherokee Street. ELEVEN talked with Chris back in May to hear his thoughts on owning a business, working on Cherokee, and living the dream. Catch some interview highlights below, browse his website at artmonstershop.com, but for the real deal, head down and see him at 2617 Cherokee—he’ll invariably be in the midst of his latest project, and more than happy to share his thoughts on anything under the sun.
ELEVEN: What’s the life like on Cherokee? What’s the day like?
Exciting…sometimes confusing. The confusion is I guess kind of trying to realize what’s going to happen with this place. All these heads are coming together, and we’re slowly building a vision, and we’re all wondering what it’s going to be like, and we’re getting there, closer and closer every day. I thnk the last six months on Cherokee have juts been insane, with all the new people, faces, businesses, everything. Every day on Cherokee is different, too…every day there’s a surprise.
How’d you find yourself here on Cherokee?
Accidentally. I’ve been Downtown the past seven years doing artwork, been to three, four different spots downtown from Washington Ave to Olive…and everything seemed so temporary to me. I started looking for a spot that would be pretty dominant, pretty set for a while. I came down here two years ago, saw the place, and it was tough to see around everything. There was a lot of dingy buildings, dingy people, just not my type of place. Then I came back a few months after that, and noticed a change, just in the few months that I disappeared. Came back and noticed a huge change. Then, when I came down, I knew there was nowhere else in St Louis where I could envision myself, or the kind of art I do for clothing, for motorcycles. South St. Louis is really just filled with people who enjoy artwork, enjoy clothing, enjoy just cool stuff to look at, and that’s what I create every day so there’s just no better spot. And I felt there was a need for what I do down here. I’m always creating something new, people are walking in, getting involved every day.
So what’s your overall vision for the street? Boil it down.
One vision, reality, is the new lights that are coming [ed note: as of November, have arrived!] on the streets. Lighting is key, in life. From lighting a piece of artwork, to eating dinner, lighting makes everything in how you see it. And I think with the new lights here it’s going to change the face of Cherokee.
…What was the question?
What’s your vision?
Well I’m waiting for the light and then I’ll see it (laughs). Actually, I envision big signs, big glowing signs, just like you’d see at any strip, any cool strip, like Vegas, anywhere in New York, anywhere in Cali. The strips are lit, and that’s what I envision. I mean, big, exciting lights, with movement, energy, good stuff. Just can’t wait to see it. Can’t wait to be part of it.
What kind of music do you like?
A lot of fast paced rock. Not so much metal…a bit of metal. I love electronic beats with acoustic guitar. Lots of keyboards. Bands like Sparta, Quicksand, Deftones. Then a lot of early 90s hip-hop. Whatever. Gang Starr’s the shit. I guess I bounce around a lot.
What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
I’d be hustling my ass off somewhere else, and probably not doing what I love. Probably not. I did tree service for a long time, I waited tables for a long time, man, all kinds of stuff. But I always got my hustle on. Always grinding. I’m lucky to do what I do, I know this.
What inspires you?
Life in general. My kids, definitely. I guess surprise, I love the element of surprise, and I think all my artwork shows that.
What’s your favorite restaurant, establishment, person, or thing on Cherokee.
My neighbor, I think my neighbor, he’s a big influence on the arts, on the music, on everything. You walk into Foam, it’s eclectic, it’s what I totally see on Cherokee popping off with microbrews and the good coffee. He’s in my top 3 for sure, [Foam Owner] Mike Glodeck. El Torito too, but yeah, there are good Mexican joints all over. I don’t have one specific that I love the most.
What’s your next big project?
We actually got on Warped Tour, so we’ve got 4-5 dates across the Midwest. I could do the whole thing, but I’m worried I’d end up missing out on the shop. I just want to hit it and do the thing.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done lately?
Married a Russian. No, I’m lying.
Anything else you’re dying to tell me?
Oh, man, you’re great.
Did you like that? It’s pretty good, it’s a little weird.
I’m absolutely flattered.