SANTA FE, N.M. — A 25-year-old Santa Fe artist and street performer known by friends as a free spirit who lived life to the fullest died in Chicago early Tuesday morning after falling 16 stories from an apartment building.
A Chicago news website identified the man as Erin “Hoku” Donovan-Smith, who was visiting friends in the city.
“He was a truly wonderful, unique individual,” said Shana Hack, who employed Donovan-Smith at her Moon Rabbit Toys shop in downtown Santa Fe for about three years. “He was really one of best persons I’ve ever met.”
She said he juggled and performed magic tricks, and sometimes would “just go around and hand out toys to people.”
“He was one of those people who was kind of always performing,” Hack added. “He had a great joke or a story to tell.”
A Chicago Police spokesman said Friday the fall at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday was still under investigation. He would not comment on a report by the DNAinfo.com website in Chicago that an autopsy report declared the death accidental.
DNAinfo reported that Donovan-Smith fell from a window.
“He swam in Ganges River (in India) next to decomposing bodies,” Hack said. “He was fearless.”
Donovan-Smith’s Facebook page has photographs of him dressed in clown makeup, a link to his BandCamp page where he released hip hop music under the name “Baffle, Master of Ceremonies” and a timeline in which he indicates he volunteered with Santa Fe’s Meow Wolf art collective.
“My many universal gifts are slowly manifesting a destiny unique to my particular niche,” his page states. “I like somersaults.”
Hack said Donovan-Smith went to Monte del Sol Charter School and took classes at the old College of Santa Fe. He traveled a lot, and last year went on a trip to India and had visited his parents who live in Italy and Great Britain.
“He was a world traveler,” Hack added.
A friend, Christopher Johnson, of Santa Fe, said the death was shocking, because Donovan-Smith was “a natural at life.”
“He enjoyed just living and not only found a bunch of magic in every day, but he tried to pack more magic in,” Johnson said. “He always wanted to fill people with wonder and did so easily.”
Vince Kadlubek, of Meow Wolf, said he knew Donovan-Smith from working with him in the art community. He said Hoku was skilled with circus and street performance, which he mixed with music and poetry. Donovan-Smith collaborated with Meow Wolf as a performer and through video work. Kadlubek said Donovan-Smith “had a deep connection to the authenticity of being alive” and that there was a sense among Santa Fe’s young artist community that they lost one of their “identifiers.”
“He was a pillar of our identity,” Kadlubek said.
Journal Santa Fe/North editor Mark Oswald contributed to this story.