Lucia Neare is a 21st-century pioneer of larger-than-life theatre in public spaces. Her company’s mission is as much social and political as artistic: to confront urban dilemmas with the power of free theatre, and nurture community by inspiring ferocious joy in the public realm. Since 2006, Neare has presented 47 large-scale site-specific works in the Pacific Northwest. In 2014, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation bestowed one of its inaugural Impact Awards on Neare for these groundbreaking large-scale, public works.
Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders, her Seattle-based company, transforms urban spaces into ephemeral participatory dreamscapes, theatre sans proscenium. The work weaves fine art (live classical music, sculpture, and dance) with disciplines unusual in contemporary art (dog training, baking, and boating). The result: grand spectacle unfurling across the cityscape to transport people beyond consumer imagination and nurture the soul of place. These ephemeral, multi-sensory “spectaculars” typically include hundreds of performers, giant set pieces, and operatic morsels. Infused with a North American magical realism, Neare’s productions reach beyond social barriers by mining elemental themes of the human experience: Paradise, Journey, Gift Giving, and Home. Her company’s works have engaged tens of thousands in grand lyrical rites that unfold in the secular sphere. These productions bring together diverse populations of all ages, (community organizations, businesses, as well as county and municipal departments) through a radical spirit of engagement.
The Manhattan-born daughter of a gay fashion designer and a black-widow heiress, Lucia grew up bouncing between a passel of broken families in Carmel, California, just down the road from Ansel Adams, in whose home she received early visual training. Today she is a classical singer, sculptor, director, producer, designer, educator, and de facto public planner.
Since 2006, Lucia has devoted her creative practice to nurturing a sense of community in public space, to fomenting radical imagination in the civic sphere, and to the cultivation of revolutionary joy.
Why? In her words: “I was an orphan. My first parent was the State of New York. From the time I was very young, every person I met made me wonder: ’Is this man related to me? Does he know someone who looks like me? Could that woman be my mother?’”
Because of this, Neare grew up with persistent familial yearnings about the public realm. She insists that her work remain free, and accessible, to all. A devotee of author Lewis Hyde and of the urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted, she believes that benevolent society is created not so much by commerce as it is by a Culture of Generosity and wide-spread participation.
“My work is dedicated to orphans everywhere. To literal orphans, to those who feel like orphans, and to those who yearn for a sense of belonging and home. My works seek to soothe the individual, and, simultaneously, model a generous, inclusive society. My intention is to create a sense of civic unum in a pluralistic, economically disparate urban environment.”
Neare’s list of awards, commissions, and honors reads like a Who’s Who of arts funders in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle Art Museum, Artist Trust, Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Seattle City Light, On the Boards, Seattle Arts Commission, Olympic Sculpture Park, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. She receives seminal support from 4Culture and received Seattle’s 2012 Mayor’s Arts Award. The same year, she was appointed Artist-in-Residence for both Seattle and the city of Redmond. Through support from an Exploration Grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s “Building Demand for the Arts program”, Lucia currently serves as Artist-in-Residence at Seattle’s ACT Theatre.
Neare studied theatre at Naropa University and holds a degree from Mount Holyoke College.
“It’s the support of so many organizations and community members that makes possible our work,” she says—“and that is to inspire a new civic Renaissance built upon joy and imagination.”