Eating places are united on this painter’s shiny, daring dividers


“You could have a nice restaurant, but if the partitions and barriers don’t look good, the customer won’t have a pleasant experience,” Taveras said recently on the phone. “With me, restaurants will find ways to recreate this energetic atmosphere for their guests while also paying attention to the importance of welcoming them back into a safe space.”

24 year old Taveras is brand new to the art. He didn’t start painting at the core of the pandemic until March 2020. The outbreak of the crisis triggered a “delusional fear of death,” explained Taveras, urging him to take up oil paints à la Vincent Van Gogh. At his mother’s home in Los Angeles, Taveras spent 18-hour days in a “stream of consciousness,” honing technical skills and discovering his artistic identity.

“At that moment, I wanted to create something that went beyond me on canvas,” he said.

For almost a year, Taveras kept his job as a marketing specialist for Temi in New York, the maker of the world’s first personal robot. That role took him from his Manhattan home to the end of the world – 150,000 miles in 2019 to be precise – meeting clients and exploring new cultures.

However, he has found that art is more fulfilling than these previous pursuits.

“From a marketing standpoint, there are other career paths I could take,” said Taveras. “But from a psychological point of view, that’s the only thing I can do.”

One of Taveras’ five concrete outdoor dining barriers from Sonsie.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

That’s why he rented a studio in the art and design district SoWa in September 2020 and officially left his Temi position in February.

Selling art to collectors – from Paris to the Middle East – has become his main source of income. Refreshing restaurant dividers is just a way of getting the word out and a way to help small businesses.

He started painting barriers after answering a request from Little Donkey, the global tapas place in Central Square, last month. Partners Jamie Bissonnette and Katy Chirichiello ordered eight plastic table dividers, which were white and opaque when they arrived. They quickly realized that the colorless additives would destroy the ambience of the restaurant and got Chirichiello to post the message to Taveras on Instagram (@robojoebot).

A friend of hers previously invested in Taveras’ work, Chirichiello said. She hoped he could give the restaurant a touch of the nearby graffiti alley. Taveras cleared nine barriers known as “The Stardust Series” within two days of Little Donkey’s reopening on April 12th.

“He brought the energy that the restaurant exudes straight to the screen and knew exactly what our mood was like,” said Chirichiello.

When the Little Donkey barriers are no longer used, they will be auctioned off to raise funds for Artists for Humanity, a local nonprofit that supports underserved youth with paid creative work.

Sonsie’s manager Gabriela Choate said Taveras’ five external barriers fit in perfectly with the existing work at Newbury Street Bistro. Despite his amateur status, Taveras brings a boldness that compliments the Sonsie Terrace, Choate said. “His work is impossible to overlook, to ignore,” she remarked.

At least four other restaurants in Massachusetts and Maine have contacted Taveras. Next up are the University in Back Bay, the Create Gallery & Cocktail Lounge in Somerville and the cannabis dispensary Pure Oasis.

For Taveras, painting partition walls not only suppresses a creative urge, it also satisfies the community need created by the pandemic. Everyone is (literally) hungry just to dine away from home. Introducing visual enhancements will help revive the carefree dining experience we remember from yesteryear, he said.

“The first thing people want to do now when they are vaccinated is to eat with their friends,” Taveras said of the 3-million plus Bay Staters who now both have shots. “Artists are rushing to get into galleries, but who is going into galleries right now? Restaurants are what people want when they get back to nature. “

A view of the completed barriers at Little Donkey in Central SquareA view of the completed barriers at Little Donkey in Central SquareJoe Taveras

Taveras’ résumé goes well beyond selling art and robots.

He graduated from Boston College with a psychology degree in 2018 after releasing his childhood dream of becoming a surgeon. Together with friends after graduation, Taveras started an application that college students could use to sell items among themselves. Then he turned to Temi, taught himself three programming languages ​​and traveled the world. (He has a Temi robot in his studio today.)

While in quarantine, Taveras also dealt with music production and made over 400 unreleased songs.

“If he could cook I’d be nervous,” said Bissonnette, the Little Donkey chef.

His work experience shapes his portrait and abstract works, which occasionally comment on the future of artificial intelligence and the ethics of modern technology. Taveras said he wanted “technology for everyone” and believed that “today’s dialogue will create tomorrow’s life”.

Even if he makes it big in the art world, leaving Boston is not on the agenda.

Taveras finds the town fascinating and familiar, considering he lived in Southborough with his father for seven years as a child. He sees a variety of growth opportunities in Boston’s art scene.

“Boston wasn’t an art city to me, which doesn’t make sense,” said Taveras. “It’s one of the smartest places in the world – and the most creative. It’s crazy to me that the two things haven’t merged until now. “

By expanding its portfolio, Taveras envisions a glorious future – with a “modern renaissance” and many more orders.

“I’m not the type who goes where there is still something,” he said of creatives fleeing to New York, Chicago or the like. “I stay here.”

Diti Kohli can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.