I had big hair, big eyebrows, and big shoulder pads in the Eighties. I listened to The Blasters, Los Lobos, Dwight Yoakam and all the rockabilly and blues I could get my hands on in the Eighties. I went to shows at El Rey and El Madrid to see the Broadway Elks, The Muttz, and The Strawberry Zots in the Eighties. I was all about ‘new wave’ fashion with a whole lot of vintage mixed in – neon colors, stacks of rubber bracelets, and Guess jeans with little zippers at the ankles or little black vintage dresses and cat eye glasses. I shopped in Nob Hill at Beeps, Wear It and the In Crowd.

The In Crowd was one of my all time favorite places to shop. It never failed me when it came to fashion, prison art, postcards, Mexican folk art and the best penny candy. Kenny Chavez, co-founder and owner of the In Crowd, is still around and flourishing as one of Albuquerque’s premier folk artists.

My daughter and I had the pleasure of hanging out with Kenny in his Nob Hill home and studio. It was like walking into a giant folk art shrine! We took a tour of his backyard and saw all of the delicious morsels of rusted cans, bottle caps and old glass bottles that make up his fabulous art.

Although Kenny wasn’t born in ‘Burque, he certainly is a 'Burqueno through and through. A graduate of Manzano High School in 1977, he told us the funniest story about being in the Chicano Club at MHS. His family lived in the Winrock area and he, his sister Cindy, and friend Vicki made a pot of beans to take to a Chicano Club potluck. To get the beans to the potluck at Manzano, they had to ride the city bus. With two people carrying the large pot by the handles, they were trying to cross Pennsylvania to get to the bus stop. As soon as they started to cross, one of the handles broke and the beans were all over the street! That street was paved with New Mexico gold! What’s cool is that Kenny still has the handle that broke off that pot.

After high school Kenny went to TV-I and after that his first job was working at Larry’s Hats on Central. He began doing window displays for everyone in town – Margo’s, Casual Corner, Martha’s Body Bueno, Wild Rose, Mountains and Rivers and Wear It to name a few. Kenny and friend Larry Roybal, who liked to think of themselves as Burque's 80s fashionistas, needed a place to store all their mannequins, hangers and clothing racks. They rented what had been L. Black Beauty Salon on Amherst for $100 bucks a month. They realized had the perfect makings for their own store. They eventually took over the space that is now Masks Y Mas. The In Crowd sold vintage clothes from the eras they loved, the 50s and 60s. They started branching out into funky night club clothing and were the first in town to sell Doc Martens. That end of Nob Hill was beginning to become cool again with Bow Wow Records and Martha’s Body Bueno across the street from the In Crowd.

Larry passed away in 1990 and Kenny kept the store running. He decided to take the store in a different direction and focused on Mexican folk art. Day of the Dead art was scarce in ‘Burque and Kenny was in the forefront of bringing it to the city. He also brought prison art to the store as well. He met a woman who taught art to prisoners and was blown away by the talent. He featured two prison artists, Timothy Duncan and Carl Smith. When the Alibi featured a story about their art at In Crowd, requests from other prison artists came pouring in. The work was incredible - roses created from plastic spoons, paper mache Harleys made from toilet paper, pañuelos embellished with santos or gang imagery.

Kenny decided that it was time to close up the In Crowd in 2004 and concentrate on his own art. His recycled art is inspired by what he discovers while "treasure hunting." He could be in the glass graveyard near El Modelo, or in a vacant lot and discover the perfect bottle cap, rusted nail, or as he showed us, a wonderful old pair of rusted scissors. Not everyone can see the beauty in these items, yet Kenny can look beyond the obvious and find life in these found objects. It occurs to me that prison artists make objects from unlikely materials, recycling ordinary things to create extraordinary art, just like Kenny.

My favorite pieces are the bottle cap figures he creates. Oh and I love the hanging bottles, and the signs too. I especially love the signs that say "Mi Casa is Mi Casa." Kenny is involved in the art community and is in many shows throughout the year. I'm excited for him because he has been selected, along with Goldie Garcia, Johnny Salas, and Alex Chavez to be in the upcoming New Mex New Mix show that will be at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on August 8.

It was fun hanging out with Kenny and reminiscing about the old days. We were chattering away when he pulled out his scrapbooks and showed my daughter pictures and articles about the In Crowd. Being quite the fashionista herself, she loved seeing the old eighties styles. There are a lot of wonderful memories in those scrapbooks.

It's apparent that Kenny loves 'Burque and Nob Hill in particular. He said he loves Nob Hill because it is liberal, smart, gay-friendly, and says it is his comfort zone. Because he has been in the neighborhood so long, he knows his neighbors well. Kenny also works at Ghost Town Trading Company where they make and sell beautiful recycled furniture. Go in and say hi to Kenny and check out his work. I know whenever I run into him anywhere, it always makes my day to see his wonderful smile.

Views: 81

Comment by Spring Griffin on June 18, 2008 at 10:29am
I was getting lunch at Bumblebee a while ago and the cashier asked if I work in the neighborhood. I said that I kind of do since I coordinate the art for Flying Star and Satellite. The dude said he knew a great artist and could he give him my contact information? The artist was, of course, Kenny Chavez. When we installed Kenny's work at the Nob Hill Satellite, the manager couldn't say enough about how much he has always loved his art. Now I see this beautifully written post about him. I can look at Kenny's work and know that he is an awesome artist but he must be a very special person to get such passionate endorsements from so many people, it's wonderful to know a little more about his history, thanks 'Lita.
Comment by Khan on June 18, 2008 at 10:31am
Viva In Crowd!
Viva Kenny!
The In Crowd was one of the only places when I was young that being a skinhead and being queer made actually good sense together. As I've gotten older, I've reconciled a lot of things about my person, above and beyond those two; but In Crowd I think was a place that developed my interests & helped me understand a few things. My partner bought his last pair of Docs there, 14i plaids, and wore the hell out of them, cuz post I.C. you couldn't find interesting boots anywhere else in town. I always have flashbacks when I walk into a house and there's a Kenny Chavez piece, always immediately obvious the work is his. And that happens not infrequently, I'm very glad to say.
Comment by Diego on June 18, 2008 at 10:34am
Well done Adelita! This has been a great story I love Kenny and am glad to hear that he is doing well and now i know where i can go visit and chat with him. Wow so many memories and all of them good. I bought my first pair of Doc Martens at the In Crowd "creepers" was the name of them, I guess we were regulars there. Around Halloween we would rent costumes at the In Crowd also. one year I was suppossed to be Amadeus Mozart but evferybody was yelling "Rock Me I'm a Danish" remember that 80's song? LOL anyway Iloved the In Crowd for being so "New York" and "New Mexico" at the same time I was very sad when they closed. If any body has ever had the privilage of going to Kenny's house it is like a museum of funk-a-delic. I love it.
Comment by Neonnoodle on June 18, 2008 at 10:58am
I've meet Kenny at the Ghost Town Trading Company and he's always been very friendly. I didn't realize that he created some of the art they sell, very cool.
Comment by cc on June 18, 2008 at 11:09am
Yay Kenny Chavez !
and Yay Adelita -- thanks for documenting this Very Important Burqueño!
Beautiful way of creating you have, Kenny Chavez.
I missed out on In Crowd! in the Eighties I was mainly at La Montanita Coop both on Girard and in Nob Hill, in the Living Batch bookstore and Mi Casita and Frontier and the Hippo, further west. But I did love hopping to some punk band at Okie's! What band was it???
So important to document that time in our town, Adelita!
Comment by andrea on June 18, 2008 at 11:13am
This is such a great post... Kenny's work looks awesome!
Comment by mombat on June 18, 2008 at 11:47am
Thanks for this post.
I loved In Crowd. They had the best stuff. I bought a pair of pointy black boots with skull buckles there when I was 19. Kenny and Larry were always so welcoming and pointed out cool new things even if they knew you probably couldn't buy them.
I was working at the vintage clothing store down the street when Larry died. The whole district mourned him.
Kenny is great artist and with a marvelous sense of style.
Comment by Michael P. "Martini Mike" D'Arco on June 18, 2008 at 11:51am
I loved the In Crowd! I still have a T-shirt from there that I wear on occasion. I will have to track him down at Ghost Town to check out the latest art. Great article Adelita.
Comment by Diego on June 18, 2008 at 11:53am
Hey mommbat I had the same "skull boots" I even had the matching blackpants with the dagger through the skull. very cool. A funny story I wore this great outfit to a party but it turned out to be a cholo party and I was sick to my stomach from nerves because I was dressed so "weird" for them. I ended up leaving rather quickly.
Comment by Ron Da Bomb on June 18, 2008 at 1:07pm
The thing I like most about DCF are the storytellers. The oral historians. Keeping heritage and history alive, stirring old memories, often coloring the avenues and places of our beloved town with a new perspective. This was a pleasure to read, Adelita.

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