Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Multidisciplinary Arts
Project Collaborator(s): Luc Sante; Brian Frye; Elizabeth Henson, PhD; Andrew Fairbank; Jon Leidecker; Robert Green

City/Town: McNeal
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

Films can be manipulative, they can deliver people to a conclusion. It is my goal as a performer and a filmmaker to be accessible yet never quite predictable. Linear stories with narrative conclusions don’t do the complexities of life justice.

With her Artist Research & Development Grant, McNeal-based multidisciplinary artist Laurie McKenna will expand on her performance/video piece, The Undesirables, which she describes as “a personal, reflective, funny and tragic series of stories punctuated with biting text projections and videos.”

On the morning of July 12th, 1917 in Bisbee, Arizona, two mining companies and the Sheriff armed over a thousand citizens known as the Loyalty League and rounded up 1,196 striking miners at gunpoint, marched them to the baseball park 4 miles away, loaded them onto cattle cars, and banished them to the desert of New Mexico. The workers were accused of being subversive, anti-American Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

McKenna began researching this incident in 2014. Since then she has developed a large online community around her investigation and produced various art projects, culminating in the presentation of a work-in-process, multimedia presentation titled, “The Undesirables,” on the 100th anniversary of the incident. Through more research, experimentation, and revisiting her already produced material, McKenna intends to expand the spoken word portion of the performance, create additional video elements, and further refine the overall presentation.

Laurie McKenna is a multidisciplinary artist currently focusing on performance art and video. Often referencing American history, she combines and distills personal experience and bereft and dispossessed cultural narratives. Her research-intensive work tackles issues of labor, race, place, and America’s social margins. She holds a BFA in Filmmaking from Mass College of Art. From 2003-2015 she was a member of Central School Project–an Artist Studio Cooperative and Arts Center in Bisbee, Arizona. In 2014 she became its Executive Director.

Banner photo by Zoya Greene