Melissa Merli: 'Small-town life' brought Hatchadoorian to Urbana

Melissa Merli: 'Small-town life' brought Hatchadoorian to Urbana

City's public arts coordinator settling in to new position

Talk about transplanting yourself!

Lisa Hatchadoorian, the new public arts coordinator for the city of Urbana, grew up in a suburb of Wilmington, Del., went to college in Virginia, and lived in New York City and Casper, Wy., and then back in New York before coming here last month.

Altogether, she lived for 20 years off and on in a rent-controlled apartment in Chelsea in Manhattan, working as a curator at galleries.

She spent six years in Wyoming, working as the curator at the Nicolaysen Art Museum, also called the nic.

"After living in Wyoming and getting a sense of the plains and the openness of the land and a taste of small-town life it became a lifestyle choice" to move to a smaller town, she told me.

As you might expect, Hatchadoorian, who's 43, has varied experience in the arts. She was a dancer and flutist as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia. She played in several music ensembles there but majored in art history, a choice influenced by trips to art museums during family vacations in Europe and the United States.

After graduating she moved to New York. As she became more interested in curatorial work, she went to Bard College to obtain a master's in curatorial studies. She also has a certificate in contemporary art from Christie's, the famed auction house in New York.

She's worked primarily as a curator since 2000 — in New York one of the galleries where she worked was the George Billis Gallery in Chelsea. She also at one point managed the international Red Dot Art Fair.

Hatchadoorian became interested in public art while at the Nicolaysen, when she was in charge of a major public-art project. She discovered a notice online of the public arts coordinator position in Urbana.

She started that job on Feb. 10. She is the city's third public arts coordinator, after Anna Hochhalter and Christina McClelland, who are now working in Chicago and Denver, respectively.

Hatchadoorian is still studying the lay of the land, so to speak, so doesn't have in mind any new programs or changes she wants to implement right away.

As public arts coordinator, a full-time position, she administers the city's arts programs and works with the Public Arts Commission. Among other duties, it bestows grants to creative projects and arranges for the leases of temporary outdoor sculptures around town.

Hatchadoorian also is in charge of music performances and arts workshops at the Market at the Square, the weekly farmers' market in the Lincoln Square Village parking lot.

She also will work with Urbana's arts in the schools program and administer the Artist in the Corridor program. In it, art created by an Urbana resident is shown for a month or so in the hallways of city hall.

"Right now I'm interested in seeing how city government works and how we can make Urbana into this really creative community that embraces technology, art, food — all those things that you want in a community to have a good life," Hatchadoorian said.

And so far she likes C-U "very much.

"I'm used to the plains, the landscape," she said. "I love the openness, the sky, the clouds, the storms, the wind. The towns are interesting to me. I like the small core downtowns, the environment, the university and technology, and small-town life."

For now, Hatchadoorian is living in an apartment on the northwest side of Champaign. Her husband, Steve Keim, plans to move here soon. He works for a company that produces middle school and high school concerts at Carnegie Hall. He's still in Chelsea, in Manhattan. Here they hope to buy a house — their first.

Welcome, Lisa!

News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli can be reached at 351-5367 or Her blog is at

Topics (2):Art, People