Places #5: Miki Liszt

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"Places" is a new feature where local artists show us the places around town that inspire them.

Guest post by Anna Caritj.

How much inspiration can four white walls yield? Miki Liszt’s Studio 20 in the McGuffey Art Center naturally invites this question. The space is bare, defined only by a high ceiling, shining wooden floors that Liszt mops daily, a stretching studio mirror, and grand whitewashed windows where tree tops sway against a grand expanse of sky. As Liszt puts it, it is, “Just space. Pure space.”

She begins her work in solitude, often staying in the studio four to five hours at a time. She describes this as a lonely yet essential step for every artist trying to “identify his or her individual voice.” The studio plays an integral role in this process. Rather than relying on external forces to inspire her, Liszt uses the space to wash herself of outside influences:

“I come in and I can be clear. What comes out of the space has its own life not directed by outside structures. The space is neutral. In this way, the environment is not intrusive into my headspace. My head can then coordinate with the rest of my body and coordinate with the rest of my thoughts and my physicality can find some harmony that’s dissociated from the press of a particular environment.”

 

For over 25 years, the studio has supported not only Liszt’s personal work, but also that of the community. She uses the space as “a form of physical and financial support,” for independent dancers and dance companies in need of rehearsal or performance space. Liszt has also held numerous dance classes for all ages and experience levels.

“I want to offer students a place of emotional safety where they can take artistic risks,” Liszt said. “Artists are very vulnerable. We’re vulnerable in putting ourselves out there and being willing to be judged. [In the public eye], it’s either thumbs up or thumbs down. But actually, there never was a thumbs down, it turns out. It’s thumbs up or…this.” Liszt wagged her thumb sideways, indicating neither full approval nor disapproval.

“We normally think it was thumbs down, but it wasn’t.”

Despite Liszt’s connection with the studio, she is thinking of leaving it. The desire to continue collaborating, educating, and encouraging Charlottesville’s artistic community has driven Liszt to contemplate this change, her eyes trained on an empty studio on the first floor of McGuffey.

The main difference? The new studio’s glass door allowing passersby to see inside the studio rather than wonder at its secretive contents. Liszt hopes that a more welcoming space may encourage others to join in and try something new. Further, she imagines that not only dance, but other cross-disciplinary activities would flourish in the new space: “[I could organize] lectures or a poetry reading with movement incorporated. Acoustic movement with video or film.”

When asked if she’ll miss the old studio, Liszt glanced wistfully at the light-soaked room around her, “[I’ll miss] the trees. That view. Down there, it’s all dark and there are these black drapes hanging that I find very oppressing. The view downstairs is out to the parking lot. But, I’m at an age where I can create a space that is conducive to my work. If I don’t have the trees, I’ll be all right.”

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