Presenting Seattle's Lucia Neare, Winner of the Doris Duke Impact Award

Seattle artist Lucia Neare was a recent recipient of a $80,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation. The grant is part of the foundation's Impact Award program, which is administered by Creative Capital with the goal of funding artists who have yet to see "significant national recognition for their work, but who show great promise."

So what exactly did the foundation find so intriguing about her work? For starters, they were impressed by Lucia's ability to blur the link between the "real" world and dreams within the public area. For example, Neare's piece, "Lullaby Moon," which lasted over a year, conjured up "celestial dreamscapes around the Puget Sound region during the evening of every new moon." 

Neare has shown an impressive ability to subtly encourage viewers to interact with the natural world, whether they consciously realize it or not. The idea itself, of course, isn't novel. There's no shortage of artists aiming to integrate the arts into the daily lives of viewers. And foundations themselves enthusiastically embrace artists who attempt to "democratize" the arts by transforming it into an immersive, everyday experience. For evidence, one need to look no further than the Knight Foundation's recent funding announcements that are encouraging this important paradigm shift. 

That being said, the goal of "integrating the arts" can be a bit more difficult to execute in practice. Neare, however, has realized considerable success in her efforts due to the fact that she brings her art "to the masses" by performing pieces in public parks and other locations where people inevitably congregate. Viewers don't have to go to her, she comes to them. Furthermore, viewers are encouraged to become part of the experience. Her upcoming "Recipe of Love," a "free, all-ages celebration of spring" at Redmond City Hall, encourages attendees to bring food to share and to dance around a maypole.

In addition, the visual component of her work is aesthetically powerful. The dreamlike ambiance is both familiar and compelling. It's a beguiling mix of Where the Wild Things Are and Alice in Wonderland. As a result, the pieces, which, to the unexpected viewer, could come across as bizarre and invasive, are instead whimsical and almost child-like.

That isn't to say Neare isn't willing to tackle difficult issues. In May 2012, for example, her troupe, dressed in "fantastical white costumes and masks,"  led a community procession and vigil from a local park to Cafe Racer, to honor the victims killed in a mass shooting at the Seattle cafe.