After a decade of training, teaching, and performing circus all over the world, Shannon McKenna packed up her fake eyelashes, carabiners, and swivels and moved back in with her parents in Atlanta, GA. Like so many artists entering their 30s, she wanted something different out of her life, but what?
All she knew was that the circus world was changing from when she first touched a trapeze 10 years ago. She wanted to figure out where she fit in this shifting industry.
Out of sheer luck, her friend, former student, and physical therapist, Jennifer Crane came to town leading some of her own workshops for her company, Cirque Physio. The two met for coffee and a walk through the city. It was on that walk that the good Dr. Crane suggested to Shannon that she collect all the information she taught in one of her most popular workshops and create an e-book- “also, you should start a podcast.” Jen suggested.
Ever the compliant patient, Shannon obliged. She began an extensive project, researching, writing, and videoing herself and her students. She reached out to accomplished friends from all corners of the globe to record interviews in which they reflected on their careers as artists and offered advice to future generations. She decided she needed to get adult and official with the damn thing. She needed to make this whole project a company.
But what to call it?
It was not a fitness company- Shannon rejected the unhealthy capitalist fitness culture that pushed impossible body standards on her. But it was not solely a creative endeavor- there was science and merit and a (flimsy, but existent) business plan in place to ensure that whatever the hell was going on, it was in service to the community that gave Shannon so much. The great question was how to merge artistry and athletics.
The Artist Athlete became the working title and then, it stuck around.
Since its official incorporation in 2018, The Artist Athlete produced 3 e-books on aerial technique, collectively selling over 1,000 copies. The Artist Athlete Podcast boasts downloads from 71 countries and received acclaim from the American Circus Educators and Circus Talk.
Like the journey of the circus industry itself, The Artist Athlete is still making and remaking itself. But throughout the changing landscape our mission is always clear: to provide artistic inspiration through the stories of professionals in the industry and to supply information about best practices for training.
About the Founder
Shannon McKenna wasn’t a gymnast or a dancer, but she was one hell of a tree climber, and from an early age was most at home in the spotlight.
After attending a high school for the performing arts in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, she earned her BFA from New York University and co-founded the physical theater company, Fish & Bicycle. Explorations with her company members led Shannon to Canopy Studios in Athens, GA where she tried her first aerial silks class. Without much idea of what it meant, Shannon decided, then and there, to become a circus artist. She spent a year training intensively at Canopy before moving to Vermont and spending three years at The New England Center for Circus Arts. But Shannon wanted more. She moved to Texas and began gigging and teaching flying trapeze.