Michelle Illuminato


Michelle Illuminato is the recipient of many awards and grants, among them the Key to the City of Aliquippa and Best Event in Pennsylvania. She has been featured on CBS Radio Network’s The Osgood Files. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and recently completed residencies at AreaOdeon in Monza, Italy and the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France.

Artist Statement

I am interested in creating artworks that reveal the complicated and often contradictory relationship between people, their culture and the land they live on.

These artworks, which range in format and material, seek to open dialogue by pursuing the collection and presentation of multiple viewpoints. Sometimes I may invite people to share their ideas and experiences through interviews, public interactions or installations. Other times, I use sculpture, sound and photography to collect or frame the subject matter. My work is presented in galleries, public spaces, books and online blogs.

Over the years I have explored how women and girls experience public space, have asked people from the Finger Lakes to literally get on a soapbox to talk to their neighbors, and have asked residents of Belgrade to create a new guide to their city. I’ve organized cook-off’s that feature local foraged foods, created audio tours of people’s personal landmarks, and explored local collections that shed light on communities. From all of these interactions, I’ve learned that people speak about their lives in ways that are striking, often poetic, and when placed next to the words of their neighbors, provide a new map to understanding a specific people and place.

 Illuminato Blog

Michelle Illuminato - Portfolio


Ruralscape Blog: 2010, Ongoing. Screen shot from Ruralscape Tumblr

Ruralscape (ongoing) investigates the everyday culture of rural life. Over the course of this year, invited artists and locals are exploring rural Allegany County New York, via guided tours and discussions that Illuminato is organizing. Their works inspired by these experiences, as well as my own, will form the core of a publication and exhibition.


The People’s Guide to Allegany County: 2009, Interactive Installation

This project invites viewers to participate in creating a new guidebook for Allegany County. Unlike traditional guidebooks, which usually have an authoritative singular voice, this guide will be authored by a large number of residents and visitors and will reflect a personal view of the—land, its people and history. Through exhibitions and workshops participants will have the opportunity to contribute their special places, thoughts, memories and information about Allegany County by drawing guide pages and posting them.


GUIDE/VODIC, 2006 (Michelle Illuminato and Emily Blair) Next Question + Kim Beck, Kontekst Galerija, Belgrade Serbia

With the idea of moving beyond traditional guidebooks, we invited locals to create guidebook pages illustrating their personal landmarks and experiences in the city. Gallery visitors then constructed their own guidebooks from the photocopied pages that hung on the walls, ordering them, and binding them into covers designed by the artists.