Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Today, The News-Gazette's Melissa Merli chats with dancer Laura Chiaramonte, 38, Champaign.
Q: Was the Champaign Art Salon this weekend your idea? Why are you doing it?
A: It was my idea. I decided to do it because I love collaborating and working with other artists. I'm also interested in alternative spaces for showing work and supporting local artists. That's why we decided to do it in this space.
We're combining visual artists with performing artists on Friday and Saturday. There will be a mix of the two: music and dance and spoken word, along with the visual art.
The way Friday and Saturday nights will work, there will be performance installations in all the different rooms, so the audience will shift from room to room to see them.
Q: What will you be doing Sunday (today)?
A: We're hoping it becomes a sort of art walk because we're collaborating with the Public Art League and Indi Go Artist Co-Op, so during brunch time, people can walk around and look at the public sculptures and then walk in here. It's free to the public on Sunday, and the artists will be here to talk about their work.
Q: Didn't you come here to work on a master's of fine arts degree in dance at the University of Illinois?
A: Yes, I graduated in 2009 and stayed to get my Alexander Technique teaching certificate, and I just finished that in June. So now I'm here.
I lived in Chicago for 16 years and worked there in dance professionally before I came here. I decided I love this community and wanted to stay to be part of the arts scene and help support it. I've also been working with different professors here.
Q: Are you teaching dance at Illinois, too?
A: I do teach there. I love teaching. I'm not teaching there right now, this semester. But I teach in Chicago and I go back and forth and still perform up there. That's the whole idea of this Champaign Art Salon: to bring down Chicago artists and to support the local arts scene here.
Q: What companies did you dance with when you lived in Chicago?
A: I danced with Mad Shak with Molly Shanahan and with Zephyr Dance. I also danced with Danz Loop Chicago. I had my own company, Creative Arts Melting Pot; it was called CAMP for short. It was a collaboration of visual artists, musicians, dancers and actors. We did that for many years, and I've also worked with a ton of independent artists.
Q: With whom have you worked here?
A: Rebecca Nettl-Fiol, Kirstie Simson, Nathan and Julie Gunn.
Q: And Deke Weaver?
A: Oh, how could I forget Deke and Jennifer Allen?
Q: What did you think of (Weaver's and Allen's) "Wolf"?
A: I thought it was great to be a part of something a little different, that had spoken word and video, too. That was a very different experience for the audience, to experience a journey of time and creativity across environment and place.
You're creating this adventure to go on. I got to work with some great dancers, and that was amazing. I was really glad to be a part of it.
Q: How did you get to use this space for this weekend's Champaign Art Salon?
A: We're lucky. I have Alan Nudo to thank. He arranged the whole thing. He works with (Dr. Bill) Youngerman spaces. They allowed us to use this space. I love this space. What we're trying to do is build off its character. The art works with the landscape of the architecture.
All of those prints are my mother's work. We premiered our piece, "Corporeal," my evening-length dance performance and her art installation, in Chicago in April.
Q: Is she going to be here this weekend?
Q: Do you make other art besides dance?
A: I've been dancing since I was 5. Besides dancing and teaching dance, I love video, so I dabble in video, too.
Editor's note: The Champaign Art Salon will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at 40 E. University Ave., C. Admission is free.