Artist Profile: Melissa McGill

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When we heard about Melissa’s Constellation project, we knew we had to share this. It’s so cool, and for those of you into art and the starry nights, it’s gonna blow your mind. Let me hit the rewind button for a minute. We’ve known Melissa for years but through the professional photography world. Like most of us, Melissa has a few aspects to her career, and editing photography portfolios is one of them. For a photographer, editing your work is key, and Melissa is ‘the’ person everyone uses. She is a creative strategist and creative director too. Since moving to the Hudson Valley, we’ve been immersed in local attractions and getting to know the creative community north of NYC. Melissa lives just on the other side of the river in Beacon and I’ve learned that if you live within 30 minutes of someone you’re kinda neighbors. One local attraction I’ve been a little obsessed about is the Bannerman Castle on Pollepel Island. It just looks cool! I mean, who doesn’t love a good old crumbling castle and all the history and stories that go with it? The Hudson Valley is seriously a naturally beautiful place. When living in Manhattan, we forgot that we can never see the starry sky at night because of all the city lights. The first two weeks we were at our new home we’d go outside on the coldest nights and look at the stars in the sky like it was the first time we’d ever seen them. It was the first time in 14 years, we’d forgotten how much we’d missed them.

I can’t wait to see Melissa’s installation project that combines the Pollepel Island and a new kind of star in the night sky. We had a visit to Melissa’s studio to see what she’s up to and how she works.

S: Can you tell us about you career and how you arrived at installation projects?

M: I graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA degree in Sculpture. I have exhibited my work internationally since then, primarily in galleries. Since moving to the Hudson Valley 8 years ago, I have become more interesting in reaching a broader audience and working in the natural environment. I am increasingly passionate about art in public spaces and its ability to contribute to communities in a larger sense.


S: What’s your inspiration for the Constellation installation project?

M: For years, I wondered about this abandoned island in the Hudson River (part of the Hudson Highlands State Park) and it’s castle ruin…I wondered about what I was looking at, but I also about what was there before, what was missing. I discovered that many, many other people wondered the same thing, so that’s where it started. Aspects of the site that relate to my work in general are also there, such as working with pre-existing materials and exploring spaces in and around existing forms.

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S: I’d image that coordinating the installation planning, legal issues and approvals and funding is a huge undertaking. How does team Melissa manage everything? 

M: When I started working on Constellation, more than 2 years ago, I was very fortunate to meet one enthusiastic person after the next whose introductions led to more introductions. A constellation of support become a galaxy! I work with an amazing team, from Dick Polich of Polich Tallix Art Foundry to Deke Hazirjian, award-winning lighting designer, to Kurt Hirschberg, project manager of Jan Hird Pokory Associates.

I have the support of the New York State Parks Department, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, The Lenape Center, Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Sean Patrick Maloney (Member of Congress and the House of Representatives), and Anne Pasternak (President and Creative Director of Creative Time), who has been enormously supportive since the very early stages of the project.

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S: How close is this project to completion and how can we, the public, help move it forward?

M: We have raised over half of our total funding! But we’re not there yet. I am applying for several grants, including an NEA grant application submitted with the Natural Heritage Trust of the New York State Parks Department. Anyone can help right now by making a tax-deductable donation to Constellation via our Indiegogo campaign. Help raise the stars! The deadline is in 5 days, on May 30. It may not seem urgent for a launch in a year from now, but so much needs to happen in the next 6 months to stay on schedule — to actually make Constellation a reality.

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Here’s some link love for Melissa if you’d like to know more information:Website with this amazing videoTwitterInstagram, Facebook and Pinterest

Spread the love! Large scale public art needs everyone to chip in to make these projects possible, and through a combination from the art community, private donors, corporations and people like us, it’s totally possible. Donate to the Constellation project’s Indiegogo Campaign here.

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