Lucia Neare is a 21st-century pioneer of larger-than-life theatre in public spaces. Her mission is as much social and political as artistic: to confront and transform urban dilemmas with the power of free theatre, nurturing community by inspiring kindness and radical joy in the public realm. In 2014, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation honored Neare with one of its inaugural Impact Awards for her groundbreaking public performances. More recently, Artist Trust and the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation honored Lucia with their 2019 Arts Innovator Award, which recognizes Washington State artists who demonstrate innovation in their art practice.
The Manhattan-born daughter of a gay fashion designer and a black-widow heiress, Neare was orphaned at birth and was twice a ward of the state (in California and New York). She grew up bouncing between eccentric, broken, and sometimes violent families in Carmel, California, just down the road from Ansel Adams, in whose home she received early visual training. Her experiences of aloneness, homelessness, and feeling mostly unwelcome in the world shape her aesthetic as well as her politics.
Today, Neare is a site-specific theatre artist, director, producer, designer, sculptor, writer, soprano, creative facilitator, and de facto urban planner. She uses these skills to create performances that transform miles of urban acreage into immersive public rites. In 2006, she founded her company, Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders, and has since presented more than 50 of these works, drawing together tens of thousands—of all ages and backgrounds—in the Pacific Northwest.
Hailed as “one of our most innovative and singular artists in this region or anywhere” by Jim Kelly, former executive director of 4Culture, the cultural funding agency for King County, Washington, Neare has garnered a list of awards, commissions, and honors that reads like a who’s who of arts funders in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle Art Museum, 4Culture, Artist Trust, Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, On the Boards, Seattle Arts Commission, Washington State Arts Commission, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle City Light, and Seattle Parks and Recreation.
In 2009, she was the recipient of an Artist Fellowship from Artist Trust and received a Spotlight Award from Seattle Magazine. In 2012, Neare received Seattle’s Mayor’s Arts Award, which recognizes artists, arts, and cultural organizations that enrich the city through the arts. The same year, she was appointed artist-in-residence for both Seattle and the City of Redmond, a position she held through 2015. With support from an Exploration Grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Building Demand for the Arts program, Lucia served as Doris Duke artist-in-residence from 2015 to 2016 at Seattle’s ACT Theatre, where she pioneered a 20-person cultural think tank to explore the intersection between live theatre, gaming, millennial-technological culture, and the quality of Seattle’s civic life.
Notable performances include the 2008-2009 cycle Lullaby Moon, which transformed many square miles of Seattle’s urban landscape into an interactive world of dreams for audiences numbering in the tens of thousands; Ooo La La, a May Day Spectacular (2008), which refashioned downtown Seattle into a grand corridor of surreal delights, inviting thousands into a realm of inclusive elegance; and 2015’s Dream for Redmond, two nights of mythic, participatory spectacle and lyrical rite—for contemplation, celebration, and renewal of public spirit in Redmond, Washington.
A devotee of author Lewis Hyde (The Gift) and legendary urban planner Frederick Law Olmsted (to whom she is related), Neare believes that benevolent society is created not so much by commerce as by fostering a Culture of Generosity through widespread participation.
Neare studied theatre at Naropa University’s MFA program and holds a degree from Mount Holyoke College. Her mentors include legendary Northwest soprano and voice teacher Thomasa Eckert, worldwide Alexander Technique phenom Cathy Madden, sculptor Leonard Delonga, and photographer Ansel Adams.
In Lucia’s words: “Why do I care about the community? I grew up without a mother. Or a father. And so, I learned to look to nature and to the public realm—to friends, neighbors, teachers, janitors, store clerks, strangers on the sidewalk—to provide a sense of home and family. Everything about me understands the loneliness, vulnerability, and sense of lack that hounds people who feel they don’t belong. But it’s not just about the individual. Consumer-focused culture isolates each of us and atomizes our communities. And it’s because of this, I think, that a genuine sense of belonging remains elusive. My works seek to soothe the individual while modeling a generous, inclusive society.”