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Get to Know Michael R. Tingley

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Welcome to our latest installment of the Get to Know series! Here we sat down with the latest addition to our company, Michael R. Tingley! You might have seen him in his appearance as Dr. Hamilton in Monument's first production, Hers is the Head of a Wolf at IndyFringe! Michael is a remarkable polymath whose abundant skills have led him to careers in, among other things, painting, sculpture, graphic design, cupcake shop owner/operator, art professor, actor, and most recently the Gallery Director at ArtsIlliana.


MONUMENT: Michael it is so good to have you on board! Ready to get started?

MICHAEL R. TINGLEY: Ready as I'll ever be!

M: What’s your favorite color?

MRT: Cerulean blue with a dab of black added, like a darkened, stormy sky.

M: Favorite food?

MRT: Vegetable lo mein with fried tofu and apple slices dipped in caramel for dessert.

M: Favorite article of clothing?

MRT: A gray 1950s style fedora and cowboy boots; nothing in between.

M: Do you have any tattoos?

MRT: Not yet.

M: Favorite weather or time of year?

MRT: October 21st has almost always been a day of perfect weather; a cool, clear fall day.

M: Do you enjoy sports?

MRT: I like watching pro tennis. I miss playing catch (baseball) with Dad.

M: Coffee or tea?

MRT: Nitro CBD cold brew coffee; it has more caffeine and less jitters, but hot black tea is a decent sub.

M: Cat or dog?

MRT: Cat; like having a live teddy bear who knows how to use the potty.

M: If you had to guess, what's your spirit animal?

MRT: Crow. The one rogue crow (the one who sticks around after the rest of the murder have flown off after feeding) who I feed everyday in the winter makes long eye contact with me, as if he is trying to say something...

M: What are some hobbies/interests of yours we might not know about?

MRT: I love skydiving.

I love flying kites.

I love to sing harmony.

I love screeching, loud-til-it-hurts electric guitar feedback

with headphones on.

M: What do you do to relax?

MRT: Walking in parks.

Sitting on a dock.


Watching Nordic Noir TV series after midnight with headphones on.


Picking weeds in the garden.

Making art.

M: Dream Vacation?

MRT: 1) The train from Moscow to Beijing, because it passes through so many different cultures. 2) Taking the RV through every state, because I want to disappear long enough to see everything, everywhere.

M: Do you have a favorite author or poet?

MRT: Author: William Kennedy, if I really have to choose, but, dude, lots of good shit out there that I'm very grateful for having read... Poet: Wisława Szymborska (read "Maybe All This"! Wow!)

M: Do you have a favorite actor or director?

MRT: Director Jean Cocteau: "Orphee" is just too good! (But having met Wim Wenders, I have to say "Wings of Desire" is still top of the list... and Julie Taymor did "Titus"! Fellini and Hitchcock influenced everyone... ) Actor - Harry Dean Stanton: "Lucky", his last film says why... (Jack Nicholson and Bugs Bunny both inspired me to bluff my way out of being busted by a customs guard in Spain in 1982...)

M: Who is a hero or inspiration of yours?

MRT: So many artists from the past inspired me to pursue my art making: Brancusi, Calder, and Tatlin for sculpture; Schiele, Steinberg, Hoch for drawing and collage; And countless contemporary artists continue to prod me along, many of them on Instagram, etc... Hunter S. Thompson, Eugene V. Debs, and Tom Waits for attitude and truth; Spaulding Gray and Harvey Pekar for more truth about the mundane... Y.A. Tittle for his grit; Otto Lilienthal for teaching us how to fly.

M: What do you admire in people?

MRT: Honesty, integrity, determination, courage, curiosity, creativity, compassion, empathy, concern.

M: What do you despise in people?

MRT: The lack of any or all the above.

M: What charms you in a person?

MRT: Any display of honesty, integrity, determination, courage, curiosity, creativity, compassion, empathy, concern.

M: Where are you from?

MRT: Born in Terre Haute; grade school years in Neenah, Wisconsin; junior high, high school and first marriage in Westport, Connecticut; moved into NYC at age 26, 1977-1992; back to Terre Haute in 1993.

M: What was it like growing up there, can you describe how it affected your Worldview? How do you feel about it looking back?

MRT: 1950s childhood in Wisconsin was very "Leave it to Beaver" innocence, small town rural, middle class idealism; uprooted at twelve years old to wealthy, bedroom suburb of New York City was a shocking change into modern culture, but as sheltered and secure as rural life in Wisconsin in a different way; life in NYC in the 1970s and 80s was mind-blowing... I was extremely fortunate to be there when I was and experienced incredibly fortunate circumstances... long story... And now the latest chapter in Indiana has been...Wow!

M: You first joined the Monument team for WOLF, portraying Dr. Hamilton. What was it like stepping into that character?

MRT: Portraying Dr. Hamilton was such a fascinating experience! First, working through the process of developing the character and developing his relationship with the other characters, the playwright, director, stage manager, and audience was an incredible learning experience; second, to attempt to express some of the emotional investment of Hamilton was a spiritual connection with the human condition.

M: What do you think made WOLF an effective play?

MRT: All the characters were expressed in ways that made it easy to empathize with them and identify with those parts of the human condition that each character represented.

M: How did it feel performing in the Indianapolis Fringe Festival?

MRT: It was very exciting. It would have been even more thrilling if more seats were filled!

M: When did you develop an interest in theatre?

MRT: My high school, Staples HS in Westport, Connecticut, had a very successful theater department influenced by the proximity to New York City and the history of theater in Westport. I was quite impressed and fascinated by the productions and felt some real envy for the actors. For various reasons I had been drawn into the athletic pursuits, but increasingly came to believe that sports were just a role that I was playing on the adolescent stage. Once I hit college, I had the opportunity to try acting once, stage design once, and graphic/program design once. After moving to NYC, theater became much more of an obsession that I was eventually able to indulge in as an audience member.

M: You're the Gallery Director at Arts Illiana, when did you take up that position?

MRT: Four years ago.

M: Tell us a little bit about how that came to be.

MRT: Four years ago the Deming Hotel was renovated, providing a new ground floor space ideal for a Gallery. The Executive Director of Arts Illiana, Jon Robeson, asked me to help start a new, professional gallery for Terre Haute. I saw that as a rare chance to share what I had learned in the fifteen years of working in, and for, galleries and museums in NYC, so I agreed to be the Gallery Director for the new Arts Illiana Gallery.

M: What are the kind of pieces you look for when putting up a gallery?

MRT: My job as Gallery Director, as I have developed it, has been: Choose the themes for each of the four exhibitions we have each year, design a poster and other graphics for the exhibition, send out a Call for Entry to artists, find Guest Curators who will choose the art that is entered (in exchange for giving them a solo exhibition in our North Gallery), install the art, and promote the exhibition. It's the themes of the exhibitions that has determined what kinds of art we have exhibited as well as the particular taste of the Guest Curators.

M: Do you remember when you realized you wanted to be an artist?

MRT: I grew up under the influence of my Dad, who was a mechanical engineer and an artist, a person of the creative class, always designing and making things. I naturally followed that lead and have always made things. I tried to literally follow Dad’s footsteps, going to Rose as a freshman to become an engineer, but circumstances pulled me away from making useful things and pushed me into an obsession for making useless things. My rejection of corporatism at age nineteen set the course for being an anti-corporatist (artist).

M: When did you decide you would pursue it as a career?

MRT: After a few years of college, I set out to find jobs as a graphic designer and found some. At the same time, I started to make sculptures and entered exhibitions, landing shows in galleries.

M: You spent a significant amount of time on the East Coast. What brought you back to Terre Haute?

MRT: Needing a respite from the NYC treadmill that I had been furiously pounding, I took advantage of deep family roots in Terre Haute, moved into a cabin offered by an uncle, applied for classes at Indiana State University and decided to finish my college degree.

M: What are the kinds of stories you gravitate to?

MRT: I am fond of quest narratives, tales of experience and discovery.

M: What is it about these stories that resonates with you?

MRT: Human nature and the human condition are expressed by the search for self-discovery and by relationships with others, and I like to vicariously experience those things to better empathize with others and to better deal with my conditions.

M: What is the effect you want your work to have on the audience?

MRT: I want the audience to empathize and identify with the character, to feel that they know that character.

M: To date, what has been your most gratifying experience?

MRT: In theater - portraying Dr. Hamilton in “Hers is the Head of a Wolf” was so many things to me, ultimately extremely gratifying! In life - Surviving all of the myriad experiences along this crazy trip and reaching 67 years of age!

M: Largest audience you ever performed in front of? How did it feel?

MRT: There was about 200 people in the Indiana Theater for my portrayal of Eugene V. Debs and it was quite frightening in anticipation, but after a few lines, the audience is just “out there” and it became thrilling and quite a powerful experience to channel Mr. Debs!

M: How would you describe your style of art?

MRT: My sculptures have always been surrealistic, being mostly crazy, absurd invented creatures. My drawings, collages and paintings have been mostly realistic and increasingly narrative.

M: Tell me about what you're working on now. Any personal projects?

MRT: I always try to create something for the next exhibition at Arts Illiana Gallery, so I am working on a few pieces for "The American Dream", I have a few more rotoscoped movie ideas that I am trying to get to, I am helping to build some of the exhibits in the new History Center that opens in April 2019, I have a seemingly never-ending stack of photos, slides and movies to digitize, and then there's this pile of books that I started to read...

M: Your wife, Susan, is an absolute powerhouse. How did you meet?

MRT: While I was a 45 year old grad student at ISU, Susan opened a small gallery around the corner from my studio, and, of course I was compelled to invite that hot dame up to my studio to see my art!

M: What's your life been like since marrying her?

MRT: Susan is the most charming travel companion on the planet! I never dreamed of having such a supportive and loving partner who has made it possible for me to accomplish so much! I am a lucky bastard!

M: A hundred years from now, what would you like to be remembered for?

MRT: Having been a dedicated creator who inspired others to be creative.


Now you know Michael! Keep your eyes peeled for him in our second season! Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to our website to stay up to date on all our news, postings, blogs, and updates!

#sculpture #graphicdesign #TerreHaute #HersistheHeadofaWolf #ArtsIlliana #gallery #painting

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