Mixed-media artist Darling Shear will become the first transgender artist to receive a grant from the Chicago Dancemakers Forum at the organization's annual awards celebration and benefit, to be held Thursday, July 11, at The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario St., 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Shear will receive a Lab Artist grant alongside five other people, while four individuals will be given Greenhouse Artist grants.
Chicago Dancemakers Forum ( launched in 2003 ) is, according to its website, "the only organization in Chicago dedicated solely to nurturing artistic advancement in dancemaking; it is also the single largest source of support for individual choreographers in the city with an open call process."
When asked what it means to be receiving this grant, Shear said, "I am still [shaken] from it all. It is great to be one of the people being acknowledged. Getting this grant tells me I have done a good job at being receptive to the things I want so now I am aligning with them more."
Regarding plans with the grant, Shear said they have seven new projects on the horizon and will be using the money to get them off the ground. They said the money will go toward research, resourcing materials and traveling abroad to do collaborative intensives with artist friends.
"I am ready to get into the studio and twirl," said Shear.
Shear, a Chicago native who spent much of their formative years in Atlanta, identifies as post-genderwhich, for them, means they are "a spiritual being having a human experience, spirit in neither male nor female and also both so I am all of the above because I come from 'above'."
Artistic expression has been a part of Shear's life since they started dancing with no formal training when they were 11. When Shear was 14, they started their classical training in ballet, modern, post-modern, jazz and African dance at North Springs Charter School of Arts and Sciences, just outside Atlanta. After high school, Shear began dancing professionally and has done so ever since.
Shear said their art consists of fashion, movement and therapy.
"I started out in the fashion industry as a designer with my clothing lines 'A.Squire' and 'Knigaroshi'," said Shear. "I became a stylist because I got burned out designing four collections a year during my last four years as a designer, I worked with The Green Room Agency based out of Atlanta and our work was featured on NBC, FOX, Bravo and Turner Broadcasting. I have a passion for fashion on a few levels and that includes body adornment.
"As for my guerrilla therapy, I ended up having answers to the questions people asked me so it turned into a practice of mine. This was happening through dance primarily but it turned into one-on-one meetings with people helping them with everything from weight loss to dealing with past traumas. I am always upfront with people that I have no formal training. This was something that was passed down through the generations in my family and my own shamanic studies. They still come to me because of what I have to offer."
Shear has worked with many people/groups over the years, including FutureHood, Jamilla Woods, Lauri Stallings, Outkast's Big Boi, Salonathon co-creator Jane Beachy, and Reunion co-founders Kristen Kaza and Elijah McKinnon.
"I hosted tea parties at the Ace Hotel and had AceBoomBap, HijoProdigo and Mister Wallace a.k.a Cool Mom as the resident artist who created beautiful soundscapes for the events," said Shear.
The Chicago Dancemakers Forum grant award is not the only accolade Shear has received over the years. Shear said the other one that sticks out to them is being on the cover and featured in the book Do You Remember House?: Chicago's Queer of Color Undergrounds, an anthology of house music and its origins.
"My future plans include twirling my best twirl around the world because dancing is flying and I am spreading my wings to take to the sky," said Shear, who, as an aside, listed their ideas of fun as taking naps under a tree and attending 72-hour partiesbecause they explained that fun can be found anywhere and anytime.
To purchase tickets for the Chicago Dancemakers Forum event, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/chicago-dancemakers-forum-2019-awards-celebration-and-benefit-tickets-60540109096.
See darlingshearblog.wordpress.com/bio/ for more about Shear.