M. Michelle Illuminato creates events, public-exchanges, and artworks to help reveal the complicated and often contradictory relationship between people, their culture, and the land they live on. She often works with the collective next question and counts her Key to the City of Aliquippa Pennsylvania as her most treasured public award.
Her projects have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Exhibitions include Lost + Found Factory, Union Gallery, Denton, TX and Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh; Tripoli Street BakeYard, Neu Kirche Contemporary Art Center, Pittsburgh; Art Advocacy Speaks: Art for Social Change, Spinning Plates Gallery, Pittsburgh; and The Neighborhood Revisited, Open Engagement, Pittsburgh, Pop Rocks, Strohl Art Center, Chautauqua Institute, NY, Lenz, Vogelfrei 10, Darmstadt, Germany. The Lost & Found Factory was recognized by Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review as one of the most compelling artworks across the country during 2015.
"Over the years I have helped reconnect people with their lost items, explored how women and girls experience public space, and asked people from the Finger Lakes to literally get on a soapbox to talk to their neighbors. I’ve worked with residents of Belgrade, Serbia to create a new guide to their city, organized cook-offs that feature foraged foods, created audio tours of personal landmarks, and used personal cell phones to help illustrate a 200-year-old book.
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."