Bill Shannon

Performance Artist
Born Nashville, TN, 1970
Lives in Pittsburgh, PA

The stress relief I believe allowed me to put my mind more into my creative process—creating a more focused, uninterrupted environment to fully concentrate. It helped with overall expenses related to much-needed equipment and materials. I drew in my notebook more, had lox for brunch on Sunday and generally lived in a good way... The honor of receiving the [Grants to Artists] award extends far into my life beyond the actual cash award and will always mean a lot to me.

Bill Shannon, February 25, 2002


In 1996 Bill Shannon moved to New York City and immersed himself in the art, dance, and skate cultures of Brooklyn and Manhattan while expanding his performance work to multimedia video installations, group choreography and the theater arts. Due to a bone deformity that causes pain when bearing weight on the leg, he uses specialty rocker-bottom crutches in his dance and skateboarding performances.

With the support of his 2000 Grants to Artists award, Shannon performed Old Rain (1999) at the Walker Arts Center in 2001. Subsequent to his FCPA grant, he was commissioned by Creative Time to create What is What (2003). For this project, Shannon created an expository webpage and staged three street performances that investigated the condition of being disabled in the public context of New York City.

Since receiving his 2000 Grants to Artists award, Shannon has performed at The Kitchen, Central Park Summer Stage, Trafalgar Square Arts Festival, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Dance Theater Workshop, Liverpool Biennial, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Sydney Opera House, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among other venues. His work has been included in exhibitions at museums including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Tate Liverpool, and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki.

Subsequent to his 2000 Grants to Artists award, Shannon has been honored with a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2003) and a Wynn Newhouse Foundation Award (2010); he has also received support for his work from the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts (2005) and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2007), among others.

Shannon earned a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institue of Chicago in 1995. He has held residencies at Dance New Amsterdam, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Tramway in Scotland, and The Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California. Shannon has led workshops and lectures at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, New York University, Hampshire College, Wheaton College, University of Oregon, and the American College Dance Festival, among many others.

Artist Statement

My obscure and often misunderstood spatiotemporal and aesthetic artistic pursuits exist beneath a hovering, massive, and terribly bloody notion of “Freedom." It is a cold time now even as the sun grows closer. I keep moving. I keep dancing on crutches like some sort of icon of the possibility that even when broken, humanity can stay positive. I don't have a choice of how to dance nor control over the narrative projected onto my acts. Meanwhile, the chatter you are hearing about is not my teeth, it is the involuntary threat that keeps on giving. I project heat in this frigid time of fire. To stretch the unspoken moment between intent and action I attempt a neutral palette fitting to my ambiguous identity. This is a delicate process. I fail often. What colors you will choose, be they hopes, fears, or indifference are yours to place upon me or hold back. You the random pedestrian laugh, cry, smile, frown, hug, hold, spit, push, and pull. I embrace you always. The stories that are told in the gestures of kindness, the fleeting moment of a laugh, the scuttle of an embarrassment, these are my treasure. On a micro-scale I have learned that in all contrasting and conflicting energies balance is possible in the most unexpected of ways. Humans before speaking, they moved. Body language was instinctively positioned. It is very difficult to position a body to convey a position other than what it physically is. I know this from experience. I trust it.