Please join us in welcoming Whitney Morrison as Lyric Opera of Chicago's first Artist-in-Residence.

Lyric’s Artist-in-Residence program extends our ongoing commitment to advancing the art form of opera while providing the foundation for an exceptional artist to develop original work.

This project, titled Growing Room, will feature inaugural Artist-in-Residence and Chicago native Whitney Morrison. In this series of pop-up installations, observers around Chicago can watch opera singer Whitney Morrison musically prepare and rehearse, part of the artistic process that is seldom visible to audiences, but essential to the presentation of every kind of work. She will work inside a greenhouse structure serving as a voice studio and practice room located in public spaces.


Growing Room installations will take place over a two-week period at several locations in Chicago:

May 21, 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Stony Island Arts Bank
6760 S. Stony Island Avenue 

May 24, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Avenue 

June 1, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive 

June 2, 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Navy Pier
600 E. Grand Avenue
West Performance Platform

Whitney Morrison

The soprano, a Chicago native and a Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center alumna, appeared most recently as Yasmine Miller/The Walkers, part of the Proximity trio of world premiere operas (2022/23), and as Billie/Fire Shut Up in My Bones (2021/22); She also sang First Cretan Woman/Idomeneo (2018/19) and supporting roles in Die Walküre and Rigoletto (both 2017/18). Morrison received a 2023 Grammy nomination for her performance on the recording of X - The Life And Times Of Malcolm X. She sang in Lawrence Brownlee and Friends: The Next Chapter and additional credits include the Harris Theater's "Beyond the Aria" series; Miss Pinkerton/The Old Maid and the Thief at the Grant Park Music Festival; an appearance at the Rochester Institute of Technology's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy; and Donna Anna/Don Giovanni with Chicago's Floating Opera Company. A graduate of Alabama's Oakwood University, Morrison earned her Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music and has also studied at Germany's Neil Semer Vocal Institute and Italy's Georg Solti Accademia di Bel Canto. Competition successes include top prizes in the National Classical Singer University Competition, the R. Nathaniel Dett Club NANM Scholarship Competition, and the Musicians Club of Women Competition.

Interdisciplinary performance art installation

Growing Room

Whitney Morrison's Lyric Opera residency will comprise several elements united under the theme of “Natural Audacity,” a phrase referring in part to the boldness of artists expressing their full identities beyond what is seen on stage. Morrison’s first public offering will be Growing Room, a mobile greenhouse structure that will serve as a voice studio and practice room in public spaces. In this series of pop-up installations, observers will be able to watch Morrison musically prepare and rehearse, part of the artistic process that is seldom visible to audiences but essential to the presentation of every kind of work. The soprano's presence inside the greenhouse is intended to serve as an interruption to daily lives, encouraging a greater awareness of the ongoing effort and dedication that goes into the growth and development of an artist.

Growing Room

  • For plantsa place designated for and supporting growth.
  • As in clothingextra space in a garment to accommodate the growth of a child.

A type of living sculpture, a greenhouse doubles as a practice room, with upright piano, mirror, and plants. Inside, creator and featured artist Whitney Morrison shares her intimate solo private practice with passersby. Morrison remains completely focused on her work without engaging with onlookers.

Growing Room is a metaphor for artists’ need for protection and provision in challenging seasons in order to develop to maturity, parallel to how a greenhouse allows plants to survive, grow, and produce through all seasons.

Through Growing Room, Morrison advocates for resources, places, and spaces especially for developing and young artiststhe most vulnerable. This project also honors the hidden, humble, and vital practice work of all artists. Practice is a key component of every artform, yet the hours, discipline, and focus required are seldom understood and appreciated by arts patrons and audiences.


Forms of practice

While inside the Growing Room, Morrison will engage in her own practice process, cycling through the following forms.

Active — singing and stretching
“The point of active practice is to first warm up my physical body to get it appropriately engaged, then the building of muscle memory, and finally, the integration of all of the points of the actual performance, including the physical body, mental preparation, and the spiritual and emotional. A moment for embodied experimentation. I be in there doing whatever.”

Mental & learning — listening, reading, and recitation
“This is when I become a rapper. Words, rhythm, articulation, and other directives account for over two-thirds of the written score. To practice those things separately from the singing is important, as well as whatever translation, going back and forth between subtext and literal translation to find the element of the spoken to integrate into the singing later. It’s less taxing on the voice to think through a passage multiple times than to sing it.”

Rest — taking breaks, intentional reintegration
“Rest is resistance! I take breaks because I am worthy of rest. Overwork is evil. In independent work, I am both manager and worker, so you gotta take care of your people… I just happen to be my own people. It also serves a purpose toward pacing in a session as well as providing an opportunity to revisit any concepts explored with a fresh perspective.”

Lyric Opera of Chicago thanks its Season Sponsor Invesco QQQ, its Official Airline, American Airlines, and acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Photo credits: Jaclyn Simpson, Simon Pauly

Developed as part of the Lyric Unlimited Artist-in-Residence program, Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Concept by Whitney Morrison; physical design and construction by the Lyric Opera of Chicago Technical and Production Departments.