Q&A: Abbie Springer

"We are poised to bring our aerial cube, stilt walking, juggling, contortion and hand balancing and possibly some other “hot” things not normally seen!" — Abbie Springer

Performer, Abbie Springer

Performer, Abbie Springer

As part of the 4th Annual art[squared] Sale Launch Event on April 7, CirqueLouis will be performing before the sale begins, and will present ongoing performance entertainment throughout the evening. To shed some light on this type of circus/theatre format, we asked some questions of Abbie Springer, one of the founders of CirqueLouis and currently Director of Monies & Donations.

Springer has performed in CirqueLouis’ productions, Bootleg “Untapped” (2015) and A Midsummer Night’s Circus (2016). Springer is also a part of the company’s event performance troupe appearing at prestigious venues all over the city.

At what age did you know you wanted to be a circus performer?

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 30’s that becoming a circus performer ever occurred to me☺. I was pulled into it by my friend (and CirqueLouis co-founder), Lynley Elliott, who had been studying and performing the circus arts her entire life. She and I had cheered together, winning national championships in cheerleading, at the University of Louisville many years before that. We began partner stunts and she excelled at being one of the first women in the country to be able to “lift” females in the cheerleading world. Our natural partner stunt skills and rhythm has aided us in many circus arts like adagio, acro-balancing, duo trapeze and other partner acts.

How did you begin your training?

Almost 8 years ago at Turners Circus with Lynley on Swinging Ladders – considered one of the easiest, yet most terrifying of the aerial apparatus. I also trained and performed on Spanish Webs during my first year and began training on Silks soon after that. Aerial arts really spoke to me on many levels – I was used to flying but usually by being thrown in the air. With aerial arts I became the one in control of every aspect of my flying, and I think I took to it so quickly because of this.

A lot of other skills have also transitioned well from competitive cheerleading, but I also study with a number of women, and men, with completely different backgrounds than cheering. Some have been athletes, gymnasts, dancers, or began circus arts training with no related background at all.

What was your first circus job?  

As a performer, in 2010 in the annual Turners Circus spring production (a 67 year old tradition located off of River Road). My first professional job as a performer was as an aerialist at a Black and Diamond event and an event for Zappos.

How did CirqueLouis begin?  

With the lifelong circus arts knowledge and performance history of Lynley, the artistic visionary brilliance of Christine Moondancer, and my ever-lasting energy for getting things done, CirqueLouis was created as a way to get the circus arts out of the gym and into the community.

Its official conception was in May 2015, but this group of circus freaks has been performing together for more than 5 years now. CirqueLouis was born out of a love of performance art and a strong drive for giving back to our community. We work and train hard, and want to give our city experiential “cirquetheatre” productions, entertaining events, unique and intensive instruction, and social outreach activities that filter circus “love” back into our city.  

What separates your company from a traditional circus?  

For much of its history, traditional circus companies traveled from place to place, putting spectacle, humans and animals on display. Eventually many of the traditional circuses left their tents behind for arenas, but the content remained virtually the same. Contemporary circus companies (which began emerging in the 1970’s) rely on a storyline or theme rather than on 3 rings and animals. CirqueLouis is essentially a blend of both, utilizing traditional circus arts within a contemporary circus setting. With our form of cirquetheater, we strive for originality in show concepts, dramatic costuming and unique presentation at events that is unlike anything else happening in this area.

We also launched ourselves as a non-profit in Louisville to stay true to our belief system and honor our compassion charter (effective January of 2016). The heart of our company beats for social outreach and very quickly established the city’s first social circus program, CirqueCompassion, which has been operating in the Portland area since May 2015. This is the program we are now running out of our new home at Louisville Visual Arts and our hope is to maintain a consistent presence there to help foster self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, trust, discipline and opportunities through circus arts for people seeking meaningful connections and growth.


Traditional circus has been the focus of a lot of criticism from animal rights groups, and Ringling Bros. announced in January that they will be shutting down for good after May. How does CirqueLouis fit into what seems like a turning point for this form?

There has actually been a ton of press about this lately with the closing of Ringling Brothers, the selling of Cirque du Soleil and the demise of many “tent” traveling circus troupes. Whether you are delighted or saddened by this change, it is evolving and we hope to be part of the evolution of what circus can do for a community.  

The future looks to include even more performance art coupled with fantastic storylines, costuming and music.  We are working hard to pioneer this in our city!

Tell us about the company’s education initiatives?

While we provide upper level training in the form of workshops and intensives for those already on the performance path and eventually have plans to open the area’s first comprehensive circus arts academy, our current education initiatives operate without walls. We are bringing circus arts education into schools and centers around the city. Our teaching artists use a variety of measurable skills such as juggling, stilt walking, plate spinning, rolo-bolo, diabolo, and basic acro-balancing during 6-8 week sessions.

Obviously you have to be in great shape to do this type of performance, but how have you made fitness a specific part of the company mission?

For performance, yes. Training our skills (for performance or instruction) actually does keep us in the best shape we can be.  But circus arts can also be used as a fun and exciting way to get fit.

We will also be launching our fitness program, CirqueIt, in the next few months as a way for anyone who wants a great workout to be able to do so utilizing modified circus arts.

What can we expect to see during LVA’s art[squared] event on April 7?

What do you want? No, seriously – we are poised to bring our aerial cube, stilt walking, juggling, contortion and hand balancing and possibly some other “hot” things not normally seen! We are getting so comfortable in that space and that comfort allows us to present our best versions of our performance art, so we can’t wait to join you!

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Painting, Photography, Drawing

Q&A: Jennifer Laura Palmer

“Sometimes it is a little better to travel than to arrive.”  Robert Pirsig

Location and maps are a crucial part of painter Jennifer Palmer’s work. “The first maps I collected were from my childhood and they were used on family trips. I loved that they were used on our trips and I could see my Dad’s handwritten notes and the highlighted route for each adventure. These memories have become even more precious since my Mother’s passing from cancer this past year.” Palmer is currently working on a new series involving plein air artworks created during road trips throughout Kentucky in a 1951 Chevy Pickup:

"Paintings of Maine (    In Progress)" by Jennifer Palmer, mixed media on poplar (2016)

"Paintings of Maine (In Progress)" by Jennifer Palmer, mixed media on poplar (2016)

1951 Chevy - Barbara Jane (Name after my Mother)

1951 Chevy - Barbara Jane (Name after my Mother)

Are you still touring Kentucky in your 1951 Chevy pick-up?

I currently am and the project is still in the beginning stages. I have spent the summer working on organizing my trip and scouting out locations to complete my artwork.  This has allowed me the necessary time to come up with a more cohesive plan that has clear objectives and goals to make this a successful project. After my trip to Maine this summer I realized I wanted to challenge myself to something much larger than I had originally intended and to push myself creatively to use materials and process that I haven’t used before. This has slowed down the project, however, it has increased the drive to have a series that goes beyond what I had originally envisioned. 

How many different places have you been?

Only a handful of places at this point and mostly I have been cruising routes and making notes on good places to stop and make some art. I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the places to explore in this beautiful state. I have toured a lot of backroads in Kentucky cruising and I started to realize that I need to also include more urban areas on my travels. 

"On site Traveling Drawing (Phippsburg, Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, 9x12in,     ink on paper (2016)

"On site Traveling Drawing (Phippsburg, Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, 9x12in, ink on paper (2016)

What music do you listen to on the road?

I tend to just keep the windows down and listen to my surroundings and mostly the sound of the truck’s engine. 

Do you listen to music while you paint?

I do and tend to listen to the same music over and over until I finish a series.  You would most likely find Shovels and Rope and Roy Orbison in rotation in the studio.

What expectations did you have for the journey?

To stumble upon beauty in every place I visit. 

Tell us something about the people you have met?

I have found that everyone enjoys sharing a story if you are willing to slow down and ask some questions and be sincere in wanting to hear what they have to say. The people I have encountered are the greatest resources on learning more about the areas I am visiting. They know the area and give out the best suggestions for places to see and also to eat. I have experienced that people always love sharing stories about their animals and that is a great way to start a conversation. 

Also, I would like to add since I am still in the planning stages I would love to hear from people in Kentucky on places to go and more importantly why do they think I should visit there and document the space.

"Olsen House (Cushing Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

"Olsen House (Cushing Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

What's your favorite place to visit?

I will have to say Maine. I spent two weeks there this summer on an art road trip and I fell hard for the state. The landscape, the history, the people and the air were so inspiring.  What made the trip memorable was visiting the Farnsworth Museum and seeing Andrew Wyeth’s work in person. It literally brought tears to my eyes.  I was then able to make the journey to the Olsen House and spend time photographing the house and grounds.  I have never felt such a connection with a place.  

Honestly, this trip to Maine got me a little side tracked on the Traveling Artist Project here in Kentucky with the Chevy, however, it stirred a passion and desire to make it a more impactful series by slowing down and really taking time to plan out the project so I can create a wide range of pieces in various mediums. Kentucky holds the same charm and beauty and I want to explore the forgotten spaces to see the hidden gems myself and then be able to share these finds with an audience in a thoughtful manner.

"Olsen House (Hidden Stories)" by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

"Olsen House (Hidden Stories)" by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

So far, what is the longest you spent in any one location?

I crave the chance to be nomadic however, my heart always belongs to one place and that is wherever my horses are located. That is what brought me to Kentucky 10 years ago and what keeps me appreciating this amazing state is all the open land that is still available here. So my journeys tend to be short in nature, however, the list is extensive on places I want to visit, even if it is only short term. 

"Maine Summer" by Jennifer Palmer, 16x22.5in, mixed media on paper (2016), $300 |  BUY NOW

"Maine Summer" by Jennifer Palmer, 16x22.5in, mixed media on paper (2016), $300 | BUY NOW

What's the most challenging part when starting on a piece of work?

To not worry about what the outcome will be and just create and be in the moment.

How long do you usually spend on a specific piece of art?

It varies and can be a few hours to months. Recently, I have been going over work I had in storage for a few years and remaking it into a new series. I strongly believe in including an element of history in my work and I am enjoying making something new out of pieces that I never felt were quite finished.  It is nice to see new life given to them and also to go back and relive the time period of when I was creating them. 

"Travel Drawing Series (Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, 9x12in, ink on paper (2016)

"Travel Drawing Series (Maine)" by Jennifer Palmer, 9x12in, ink on paper (2016)

Has your style changed or evolved over the years? If so what do you think influenced this?

It has and it goes through cycles. Location and time of year influences it, also the events going on in my life. The most significant change came with the passing of my Mother from pancreatic cancer. She was the inspiration in starting to live my life to the fullest and to finally get my dream truck, and then for this journey to gather stories. I realized how significant stories and personal histories are after you lose someone and they take the stories with them. If you don’t take the time to gather and archive them you will end up losing them forever. And now my work is more about searching out those feelings and memories and I am seeing a shift of including more figurative elements into my work as a way of processing these shifts in life.

If you could meet any celebrity who would it be and what would you ask them?

Wendell Berry and I would love to ask him to show me his favorite location in
Kentucky and learn more about why he chose that spot. 

Name: Jennifer Palmer
Hometown: Simpsonville, Kentucky
Age: 35
Education: MFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design; BA in Art and Political Science, Cedar Crest College (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

"Summer Days (Finchville, KY) by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

"Summer Days (Finchville, KY) by Jennifer Palmer, photograph (2016)

"Maine Traveling Sketchbook" by Jennifer Palmer, ink on paper (2016)

"Maine Traveling Sketchbook" by Jennifer Palmer, ink on paper (2016)

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Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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