By Jessica Johnson
Sometimes it takes a while to fully embrace your creativity. While I – along with the dozens of artists, performers, and creatives I have interviewed – believe we are each creative in our own way, not everyone fully embraces their creativity from an early age. Or, perhaps a more accurate description would be, “they let it lapse.”
This month’s story tells the tale of Lisa Agliano, a creative from early on, who followed a different, less creative, path for many years. It wasn’t until after raising her children that she began again to follow her muse.
The 53-year-old mother of two is a pole sport performer (yes, that kind of pole, but it’s not at all what you may be thinking.) In fact, last December, Agliano represented the USA at the International Pole Sports and Arts Federation World Championships in Florence, Italy.
Read on to learn how creativity wouldn’t let her go, and how it has led her to heights she never imagined!
How did you become involved with the aerial arts?
A friend of mine said, “There’s an aerial studio that is showing their art at First Fridays,” about four years ago and I thought it sounded like fun. I was enthralled. There was something so powerful yet so beautiful at the same time. That’s what captured me. I walked around for about 2 months, scared, before I tried my first class.
How long have you lived in SC? What brought you here?
I was born in Salinas. When I first came back from UC Davis I was working for the City of Salinas and my ex [an Olympic athlete] was training over the hill, so we wanted to live in a location that was suitable for both of us. I fell in love with the area and found a job with the County.
Has living in Santa Cruz influenced your creativity?
Oh yeah! First Fridays – being exposed to so many different artists. Going to Open Studios and seeing everybody’s work. I am exposed and inspired. There are so many creative people in Santa Cruz that it gives you the liberty to try different things. I never would have thought of doing aerial if I hadn’t seen it. Living here has opened up so many opportunities to be creative. I’m inspired by not only the people, but the beauty … the coast and the redwoods.
Tell me more about your creative journey.
I’ve always had an artistic bent. When I was in college I wanted to study design or art. That was my focus, but I was too intimated to go through with it and I took the conservative route. Now, as my children are grown and I have a little more free time on my hands, I am trying to explore more.
Have you any other experience as a performer?
When I was little I was a diver and did synchronized swimming. I competed in diving in high school. But I have never done any theater arts or dance. So that is the scariest part for me.
When did you first refer to yourself as an artist?
I don’t know if I consider myself an “artist,” I’m more of a craftsperson. I like to create. I am more of a “cut and paste-er.”
Do you consider pole more of a performance art or a sport?
It’s a fine line. It does involve performance. Even gymnastics involves performance art because you are trying to make your routine fluid and seamless and you want the people who are watching to be wowed by the beauty of the movement. But it’s also athletic. And if you go a little further on the spectrum you get to pure dance, which is also athletic, but it’s a more artistic.
I like the sport aspect of [pole] because I have always been competitive and it feels that way to me. I compete in the competitions that are more focused on the sporting aspect, I like the structure and guidelines. Not everyone likes that.
Who in your life has been the greatest influence on you, artistically?
I had a sixth-grade teacher that opened me up to painting and I always carried that with me. I took an oil painting class with her and that inspired me. She brought out of all her students that they each had artistic ability — and to use it.
What is the first thing you remember creating?
My grandmother and grandfather on my father’s side were Sicilian and they used to crochet. My grandfather would make fishing nets or hammocks and my grandmother always had needles in her hand. I picked up on that and would crochet, although I never got very good at it.
What inspires you?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from the redwoods. I know that sounds funny with the pole [laughs] but that is where I go to meditate or think about things.
Who are your creative idols, and why?
I’d have to say Angelo Grova. I don’t know that I can say enough about him.
He’s the owner of Michelangelo Galleries on River Street and he started fashionART Santa Cruz.
Like I said, I’ve always created on the side and I was aware of fashionART Santa Cruz, but I never thought I would be qualified to make something that would be accepted into the show. I was encouraged to submit something and he accepted me and I am so beholden to him for opening that door to me.
I don’t know him that well, but I saw him [last year] and mentioned that I had a chance to go compete in Italy. At that time, I didn’t think I wanted to go, and he looked me in the eyes and said, “You have to go.” His words of encouragement mean a lot to me.
An Aptos native, Jessica Johnson is a freelance writer and teacher dedicated to inspiring others to live brave, creative lives. Learn more at www.writewithJessica.com. Email your questions, comments and creative suggestions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.