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The fantastical, heartbreaking world of Seattle's Lucia Neare

In Lucia Neare's world, a horse can deliver balloons via rowboat
Photo by Michael Doucett
In Lucia Neare's world, a horse can deliver balloons by row boat.

When Seattle artist Lucia Neare heard who won the election last month, she was despondent. 

Neare walked out of her home in the Central District and across the street to a traffic circle. There, she unleashed a full-throttled howl of despair into the night.

One by one, neighborhood women added their voices to hers.

This communal ritual is typical of Neare’s more thought-out performances.

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Her troupe, “Lucia Neare’s Theatrical Wonders,” specializes in large-scale public performances that incorporate classical music and dance, sculpture, fantastical costumes, and, most important to Neare, public participation.

“My work is all about bringing people together,” she says. “It’s about creating opportunities to participate in a kind of public joy.”

Neare has staged spectacles from Seattle Center to Redmond, which hired her to help foster a sense of community in the sprawling, diverse suburban enclave.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Lucia Neare, in performance", "fid": "131924", "style": "card_280", "uri": "public://201612/IMG_0722.JPG", "attribution": "Credit photo by John Small"}]]Neare is a classically trained singer and a sculptor. She pursued each discipline separately, never imagining that it might be possible to combine her artistic passions into a single pursuit. But an incident during the 1999 WTO protests made her realize how she might use her art to shape public attitudes.

At the time, Neare lived near the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, on Capitol Hill. One evening, she watched as police conducted random street searches. She was horrified.

“I opened my window, and in full voice, I started singing 'Ave Maria.'”

Neare wanted passers-by to think about other options to violence, to capitalism, and to the status quo. She believes deeply in the power of a kind and loving community.

But she didn’t grow up with that reality.

Neare was abandoned at birth and grew up as a ward of the states of New York and California.

“I didn’t know my name,” she says. “I didn’t know my parents’ names. While I was growing up, literally every person I met, I wondered if they were related to me.”

As a young girl, Neare turned to children’s books for clues about what it meant to be an orphan. And she began to create imaginary families for herself. By high school, Neare had begun staging small versions of what developed into her public spectacles.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Lucia Neare's public performances involve sculpture, classical music and audience participation.", "fid": "131925", "style": "placed_full", "uri": "public://201612/moon_iii_michael_doucett_19_2.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Photo by Michael Doucett"}]]“I looked to the public realm for solace, and saw potential family everywhere,” she says. “I think that was really formative for me.”

In Seattle, Neare has created a family of artistic collaborators. For the past year, she’s been working at ACT Theatre on a project to create closer ties between the city’s arts and technology communities. She’s pulled together a large group she’s dubbed her "think tank" to help her come up with some specific ideas and proposals. Neare expects the plan to emerge next spring.

In the meantime, she’s writing a memoir, and looking for new ways to foster what she calls a "culture of kindness" in the wake of the divisive presidential election. She hopes to take her troupe outside Seattle’s deep blue bubble.

“This election season and the results are a call to all of us to move beyond whatever crap is keeping us from living our big dreams,” says Neare. “Hopefully, together, we can dream up some new possibilities.”