Eric F. Avery
Lives and works in Minneapolis
Mentor: Mike Hoyt
Eric F. Avery is a Minneapolis-based artist who works across disciplines. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 2006 with a BGS in Theatre he moved to Minneapolis, MN and in 2007 co-founded Savage Umbrella, a theatre ensemble dedicated to socially relevant new works.
In 2007, he was commissioned by the Spencer Museum of Art to create Cabaret Harlem in honor of the first national art exhibition of painter and muralist Aaron Douglas.
From 2008-2009, Avery resided in Chicago, IL where he primarily worked as a dramaturg for a number of storefront theatre companies developing new works in Chicago.
In order to deepen his skills in direct service, he relocated Albuquerque, NM to take an AmeriCorps position as the Theatre Outreach Coordinator at the VSA North 4th Art Center from 2009-2010.
In 2013, Avery graduated from Towson with an MFA in Theatre.
My views and practice of art have traversed a number of mediums and continue to evolve with each new experiment. Theatre was my first introduction to art, and I was immediately taken by what I could only understand to be magic: the fact that people could coordinate their collective bodies, voices, imaginations, and resources to tell a story was nothing short of a miracle. These early years showed me the value of showmanship, which I think is less about glitter and more about work ethic and a high level of respect for one’s craft.
Though musical theatre and plays can be dazzling, they afforded me few opportunities to tell stories that featured people who look and live like me. With this in mind, I founded a theatre company, Savage Umbrella; made my first independently produced works of theatre; toured the United States and Canada; and relocated to Chicago to seek more opportunities. During this time I began to understand that artists are incredibly powerful, and I hadn’t yet developed my relationship to this responsibility.
I left Chicago, and with it my notion of what makes an artist. I began a quest to find out what direct service looks like in the context of the arts. I let go of my aesthetic interests in order to focus on using art to “do good.” I wanted to heal my neighbors, heal strangers, and heal myself with art, and any art would do—sculpture, clowning, painting, theatre, music. I made so much art with so many people, and yet I didn’t quite feel like an artist. I needed to reconcile my longing to make art that mattered with my drive to make art that captured my imagination.
I enrolled in a graduate program and immersed myself in a deep questioning of everything I had done and all there was still left to do. I began to view my prior work with more clarity, I began to allow my curiosity to shape my process, and I began to understand that artists define their own limits. I have since set very few limits for myself and I allow my practice to expand into the visual arts, design, puppetry, performance art, installations, and any direction I feel called.
People often ask me, “what kind of art do you make?” I can’t give the response they desire: I’m an actor, or I’m a painter, some simple answer that clearly states in a single word how I express myself. My art occupies a space between experimental performance, visual arts, and community development. Some might call me interdisciplinary and others might call me a social practice artist. Currently, I just use the term “artist,” and getting people to think differently is my art. Instead of clay, dance, or paint to make my art, I use conversations, humor, playing pretend, and engaging viewers in live/lived experiences.