Section: Features

An educated home: DePascuale crafts an hacienda

An educated home: DePascuale crafts an hacienda

by Milo Booke

Getting a good home in Gambier can be a matter of life and death. “When I arrived at Kenyon, the only way you could purchase a house in Gambier was to wait until a faculty member died,” Associate Professor of Philosophy Juan DePascuale said. “It happened to be the case that I was about to get married and Professor [Alfred Denis] Baly of the religious studies department died.”

The coveted Ward Street home that DePascuale was lucky enough to get is a white colonial with vibrantly colored, hanging tree ornaments near the front porch.

The house was built in 1856, and its age originally left DePascuale feeling out of place. “I didn’t like the house. It was … very rigid, very formal,” he said. “Everything was divided. What I tried to do was turn an American colonial house into a hacienda, a place that would be comfortable for a Latin American. The idea was to try and create a sort of circular movement, more open. I redid every single room in the house.”

DePascuale’s home has undergone a massive amount of work, done almost entirely by the professor himself. “I’m a carpenter,” he said. “I built the decks. The deck took me two years to do. I built the tower for the children over there [in the backyard]. This has been a lifetime project essentially.” The house is sprawling and meticulously crafted, a testament to the hours of work DePascuale has put in.

DePascuale is so serious about carpentry that he transformed his garage into a wood shop. He finds that carpentry helps him with his other passion in life, philosophy. “This is a garage that is no longer a garage,” he said. “It’s where the real philosophy takes place. I built this workshop in 2004, with the money that I won from the Alpha Delta Phi teaching award. Before that I had a basement workshop.”

In the back of his workshop hangs an aged photo of his  grandfather’s workshop. A carpenter by trade, DePascuale’s grandfather made doors, windows and furniture in his Argentinian shop. DePascuale described his own workshop as a “romantic connection” to his family and his past. DePascuale’s oldest son has kept the generational passion for carpentry alive, assisting in some of his father’s previous projects.

Equally impressive as the workshop and the craftsmanship of the house is the vast collection of art that sits inside of it. DePascuale and his wife Carola have collected a lifetime’s amount of art throughout their world travels. “My wife is a sociologist [who studies] Brazil and we were in Brazil in ’82-’85 and we went into the Amazon,” he said, indicating a shelf covered in figurines and paintings. “These are from deep inside of the Amazon.”

The couple are also proficient artists, and several of their works line the house. His wife is a quilter and fiber artist, and one of her quilted pieces hangs near the staircase.

One of the most striking pieces sits in the living room. It is a sculpture of an unorthodox-looking wooden lumberjack with an intriguing backstory. “When my wife was in Brazil, she was living in a favela outside of São Paulo,” he said. “We spent eight weeks touring Brazil. We found this little shop that had these amazing wooden sculptures made by a local guy. They were gigantic parrots.” The size of the pieces made them too large to carry and DePascuale was forced to leave without any sculptures. However, he couldn’t get the artwork off his mind, and asked his wife if she could return to the store and ship some pieces home.

“She went back and somebody else had come and bought everything,” DePascuale said. Not to be deterred, his wife asked for the location of the artist’s home. She trekked deep into the woods to a small shack and found the artist, who was taken aback at receiving a visitor. All of the parrot sculptures were gone, but the artist had completed a wooden self-portrait. “And so she bought it. It’s a little memento from our 1986 trip around Brazil,” recalled DePascuale.

The art in DePascuale’s home presents a timeline of his and his family’s life and travels. He described his collection of art as a “little bit of his personal history.” A painting by his daughter, Sophia DePascuale ’16, hangs on one of the hallway walls, near a painting he acquired when he studied religion in Japan one summer. Art from his native Argentina is interspersed throughout the living room, creating a cacophony of artistic styles when viewed in conjunction with the Asian pieces. A walk through this elegant home is a stroll through the fascinating life of Juan DePascuale: philosopher, carpenter and art collector.

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