Guerra is a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s prestigious Gold Star Award for her work with site-specific dance, history, and community engagement.
Her interest and expertise in artistic celebration of historic landmarks stems from seven years of work as an historical interpreter for Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House, home of the book Little Women (Concord, MA), and the Paul Revere House (Boston, MA). Over the decade that followed, her work expanded to focus on historically-based community engagement arts programming with interdisciplinary choreography as an integral component.
In 2012, Guerra formalized this work, innovating and producing the PLACE Project (Presenting Landmarks through Artistic Community Engagement)—a custom-tailored annual event that integrates history, dance, and the arts to celebrate a town’s cultural and historic landmarks. Originally produced by Luminarium Dance Company, PLACE Project became an independent organization in 2022. Guerra most recently presented on her work with merging dance and history through AR/VR/XR technologies at Our World Heritage International Globinar 2.0 (2021), and Harvard University Virtual/Augmented Reality (2021).
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2012 – Present
2021: The Time Traveler's Lens
Viewable remotely or at Princeton Battlefield State Park . Princeton NJ
Luminarium Dance Company has officially launched its groundbreaking new production The Time Traveler's Lens using 360-degree videography and interdisciplinary choreography to present an extended reality (XR) immersive performance illuminating the history of the colonnade at Princeton Battlefield State Park (Princeton NJ).
This site-specific performance comprises five 360-degree dance films that are viewable as augmented reality (AR) across the battlefield grounds on visitors’ personal mobile devices or as a virtual reality (VR) experience when viewed remotely. As the time traveler, you control the lens, while experiencing the layers of past identities held by this historic site, including ties to the American Revolution (1777); Thomas Ustick Walter, famed architect of the U.S. Capitol (1835); and the Delaware & Raritan Canal (1901); among other glimpses into the colonnade’s rich and storied past.
2020: The I/DD Self-Advocacy Project
Rutgers University & coLAB Arts . New Brunswick NJ
For its 2020 PLACE Project, Luminarium's Satellite Company collaborated with Intellectual/Developmental Disability (I/DD) self-advocates across New Jersey from September 2019 to March 2020, conducting oral histories in collaboration with two organizations: Rutgers University and coLAB Arts. The resulting dance theatre work, ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ—STUVWXYZ, calls attention to the struggles and accomplishments these self-advocates face. What daily dignities do we take for granted? What does "self-advocacy" mean to those in the I/DD community? Evoking moments of accomplishment and perseverance, this work highlights the day-to-day overlaps of I/DD and neurotypical communities.
2019: Global Water Dances
Mercer County Park . West Windsor NJ
Merli V. Guerra and Luminarium's Satellite Company presented new site-specific work as part of Global Water Dances' 2019 worldwide event, on the heels of Guerra's work 8.7 million minus 1, which prompts viewers to reconsider their own habits of pollution and human consumption. This migratory performance installation took place along the edges of Lake Mercer in Mercer County Park.
2018: Clermont Commission
Clermont Historic Site . Germantown NY
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For its 2018 Season, Luminarium took its PLACE Project outside of Massachusetts for the first time, when the company was commissioned by The Friends of Clermont to create two new works honoring Clermont Historic Site in upstate New York: one set into motion the real-life story of Clermont historic figure Nancy Shippen, while the other examined the effect of legacy on industry in the Hudson River Valley. These two new works (Guerra's Trinkets and Holman's Intersections, respectively) were performed alongside The Hostess Diaries, created for Luminarium's 2016 PLACE Project. The program was sponsored in part by a Humanities New York Action Grant.
2017: Kinetic Craft
Fuller Craft Museum . Brockton MA
Click here for photos, videos, and testimonials
For its 2017 Season, Luminarium was in residence at the Fuller Craft Museum for the entire week of April school vacation (Daily, 10am-5pm Tuesday, April 18 through Sunday, April 23, 2017). The company constructed a series of “breathing installations”—a concept first developed by Guerra back in 2011 with Luminarium’s fabric installation at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Movement at the Mills—highlighting the five crafting elements: Textiles, Ceramics, Wood, Glass, and Metal. Participants were welcome to peruse the museum at their leisure as dancers from each installation performed and interacted with those passing by. Engaging for all ages, the event was free with museum admission.
2016: 300 Years
Longfellow's Wayside Inn . Sudbury MA
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For its 2016 Season, Luminarium celebrated the 300th anniversary of Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury with outdoor performances on the grounds. The company created three new works honoring the inn, its history, and the land, as well as a new experimental film integrating slow motion dance with flour as an homage to the Wayside's grist mill.
2015: Amherst Storybook Project
Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art . Amherst MA
Preview the completed book, and purchase your own copy here
Luminarium celebrated the Amherst region's literary roots through the creation of a new storybook for children that weaves together community-donated artwork and poetry. The book and corresponding dance performance debuted in November 2015 at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
2014: Night at the Tower
Arlington Reservoir Water Tower . Arlington MA
Luminarium turned Arlington's historic water tower at Park Circle into an enormous 60-foot-tall screen, showcasing art from the community, music, and dance, to highlight this local landmark. The project was very well received, with more than 300 in attendance, and was chosen as one of just three (out of 5,000+ candidates throughout the state in 2014) to receive the Massachusetts Cultural Council's prestigious Gold Star Award for its artistic excellence and impact on the community.
2013: Threading Motion Project
New England Quilt Museum . Lowell MA
Using images of quilts and video projection, Luminarium created a series of short films combining the art of quilting with dance. The film series was then shown at the gallery during its Silk exhibition, with a live performance during the exhibition's opening. The films were so popular that they were requested by the San Jose Quilt Museum in California to be shown in an exhibition later that same year.
2012: Celebration of Preservation Project
Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House . Concord MA
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In 2012, the company presented a site-specific piece for the Centennial Celebration at Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House in Concord, entitled the Celebration of Preservation Project. Over the course of several months, Luminarium gathered voice recordings from the museum's many tourists (some local, some abroad). These recordings were then turned into a soundscore for an outdoor piece, which was presented three times (once on the hour) outdoors on the lawn.
Night at the Tower
Arlington Reservoir Water Tower
PLACE Project and Luminarium turned Arlington's historic water tower at Park Circle into an enormous 60-foot-tall screen, showcasing art from the community, music, and dance, to highlight this local landmark. The project was very well received, with more than 300 in attendance, and was chosen as one of just three (out of 5,000+ candidates throughout the state in 2014) to receive the Massachusetts Cultural Council's prestigious Gold Star Award for its artistic excellence and impact on the community.