Studio Visit: Adriane 'Binky' Donley

Studio Visit: Adriane 'Binky' Donley

Staff writer Melissa Merli recently chatted with Adriane 'Binky' Donley, 42, of Champaign, the properties director at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts who created the "Transformation Takes Flight" installation of butterflies that was in the Champaign Public Library lobby from April through Sept. 2.

Tell us about your process of making the installation at the library.

There were more than 1,700 butterflies. I bought the butterfly blanks, made of a panty-hose-like material and wire. We sprayed-painted both sides of the butterflies in a variety of colors and went back over them with Sharpie markers. So each has its own individual markings. They're super low-tech but time-intensive. My sister and one of my grad students helped me.

Will the installation "migrate" back to the lobby this spring?

Yes, they're supposed to go back up in the spring for National Library Week. I'm just happy at how the community responded to the butterflies. I was just tickled by the children's faces who would see it, and they were not that different from the adults' faces who saw it.

Have you done other installations at the library?

I started with the stars for winter that were up in the lobby right before Thanksgiving. That was the first time I did something for a public place. I'll do something again for winter this year.

How long have you been at Krannert?

I'm in my 10th year right now. I chair the MFA properties design and management degree program. We're one of a handful, so it's kind of specialized.

How did you get into the field?

I come from an artistic family. My dad loves antiques. My sister was an art teacher, and my grandmother was just naturally artistic. So I've always appreciated those things. Like a lot of people who are in theater for a living, I came into it with a group of friends in high school. Properties design and management keep my creative juices flowing. We're almost always making something different. No two shows are the same, even if you do the same show twice.

What's the most difficult prop you've made?

I get asked that question a lot, and I don't know that I have a great answer. I think one of the hardest things we do is just try to create the real environment when it's a story about people. Like the plays "Proof" and "Fences." Those are real people, and we create their homes and backyards. Those are more difficult than something fantastical. So I teach my students how to be good communicators and observers. They pay attention to detail because that's where it's at. We're not designers. We're facilitators. We work with the set designer to make their vision come true. We're problem-solvers.

Do you have time to make your art?

I do try to find time to work in my studio at home on a variety of things. The last three years, I've been working with leather and leather inlays and overlays. I make more wearable pieces like belts, bracelets and necklaces from kangaroo skin and kid skin because it's easier to work with. It's a material I respond to very well.