Monday, July 21, 2014

CR Event Series Report: An Anti-Walking Tour of the Museum

walking-as-art for all ages
On July 19th Cultural ReProducers joined forces with the Art Institute of Chicago to present "An Anti-Walking Tour of the Museum" led by art historian and critic Lori Waxman in the form of a slideshow through history, from Surrealist novels to Fluxus walking performances to Janet Cardiff's contemporary audiovisual adventures. Meanwhile, our kids laid down their own art walks of inky stamps and colored tape in a sunny room across the hall. At the close of the lecture, Waxman distributed a handout packed with Fluxus walking scores for participants enact around the museum and out into the city, providing potential outlines for endlessly sensory self-guided tours.

One of our goals has been to make the Cultural ReProducers Event Series free of charge in addition to organizing free on-site childcare. Artists are the most underpaid / unpaid workers in the arts economy, and for artist-parents the equation "time = money" is especially literal, since work time often translates directly to childcare costs. This could have made things tricky at a museum that charges $23 adult admission, but the museum's education department was amazing to work with and together we made it happen. The event was held in the Ryan Education Center, a great family-friendly space in the new Modern Wing that is always free, and joined the Art Institute's annual Kaleidoscope Festival, which provided free museum admission as well as great activities throughout the day with organizations like the Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Wendy Donahue at the Chicago Tribune did a really nice event writeup for the newspaper's website, which also brought some new visitors our way.

 The Cultural ReProducers Event Series is a roaming series of lectures, performances, and other events designed to allow parents with small children participate more actively in the art community. These curated weekend morning events include free on-site childcare and intergenerational receptions.

Our goal is twofold: to give parents and their kids the chance to participate as critical members of the arts community, and to inspire cultural institutions to better serve artists and audiences, providing positive models for future programming. This project is made possible through support from the Propeller Fund.

We're busy planning our next event for Saturday, September 13th at the DePaul Museum of Art:  Kids in the Studio: Art, Labour, and Everyday Life with artists Bonnie Fortune and Brett Bloom. Drop us an email at culturalreproducers (at) gmail dot com if you'd like information about this and other upcoming events.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Interview: Chiaki Kamikawa

Chiaki Kamikawa is an artist and gallerist based in Paphos, Cyprus. We met as artists-in-residence at BankArt NYK in Yokohama, Japan before either of us were mothers, where I was lucky to see the wild energy of her drawings, sculptures and small-press zines develop firsthand. Chiaki's work is exhibited widely throughout Europe and Japan. She also runs Chiaki Kamikawa Contemporary Art, a gallery showcasing local and international work as well as art workshops, cultural events, and her own working studio. You can catch some of her latest work in the exhibition The Intuitionists, opening at The Drawing Center in New York on July 11th, 2014.

CR: First, briefly describe your daughter in your own words.

Chiaki: My daughter Savvena Sayuri is 11 months old. She is very active and social.  She loves nature and wildlife.

CR: What’s the art community like in Paphos? How did you get started running a gallery and building an audience there?

Chiaki: The art community in Paphos is quite big and international for the size of the town. I think the relationship between artists is much closer than in a larger city: we get to know each other’s families, where we live, each others' interests, etc.  What I really like about our art community is that there is a family-like atmosphere and interaction between different age groups.

In 2011 when I was looking for a place for my studio, I came across with a space that, I thought, would be a perfect place for a gallery. I wasn't thinking of starting one, but as I thought it over it seemed more logical to open a studio/gallery myself in Paphos. At that time there wasn't any contemporary gallery that organized its own exhibitions. At the beginning I gathered local artists, and gradually I met more artists whose work I wanted to show. To build up a diverse audience, I try to organize exhibitions with local Cypriot artists as well as international artists. Especially in a place like Paphos, I think it is important to introduce artists’ work from abroad so that the local audience can see work beyond what is already familiar.

CR:  What is it like to be a working artist-mother in Cyprus versus in your native Japan?

Chiaki: Women are encouraged to work after having a child in Cyprus, therefore there are a lot of working mothers. Traditionally grandparents look after their grandchildren while parents are working, and this tradition continues until today.  
In my case, my mother-in-law takes care of my daughter while I am working and other family members are also supporting me a lot. The family bond is very strong in Cyprus, and for working mothers this bond
means a huge help. 

In Japan, especially in the big city where I was raised, working mothers have to find another way to raise their children. Many people don't live near grandparents and children usually go to public/private childcare while mothers are working.  Good childcare is not always available and some mothers have to stop working and wait before they can start it again.

To be honest, I don’t know if it would have been possible for me to be an artist and run a gallery with my daughter in such a relaxed way if we were living in Japan!

CR: How do you find a balance between artmaking and parenting, running the gallery and earning an income? 

Chiaki: It is a real challenge to find a balance between everything I want to do. At the moment I consider myself as a full-time mother and part-time everything else.  My first priority is my family, and the second priority changes according to the situation.

 Basically I don’t have enough time to do everything as much as I want.  The amount of time I can spend for creative work dropped dramatically after the birth of my daughter but I am happy to continue what I want to do within my capability. I think it’s unnecessary to worry about finding a good balance between everything because I believe that the time will come back to me in near future.

CR: Thinking as big or small as you like, what kinds of things would make the international art world more accessible to artists with families?

I think creating more family residency opportunities and funding for artists with families are things that can be done by both public and private institutions.

As for galleries, there are people who are now interested in collecting art for their children, and this may be a new direction for galleries to focus on besides the regular collectors.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Collaborations: Lu Heintz and Asa

Collaborations is an ongoing series of critically-engaged projects undertaken by artists with their children. Kicking off this series is Learning to Letter, a video by artist Lu Heintz with her young son Asa. To see more of Lu's work (both solo and with Asa -- it was hard to choose), visit

Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Anti-Walking Tour of the Museum: Cultural ReProducers + The Art Institute of Chicago

Phillipe Petit's illegal tightrope walk between the twin towers, 1974
Cultural ReProducers is pleased to team up with The Art Institute of Chicago to present An Anti-Guided Walking Tour of the Museum led by art critic and art historian Lori Waxman on Saturday, July 19th, 11:00 am.

Walking is one of the most primary human actions, yet for the last 100 years artists have experimented with it as an art form. Consider the revolutionary and aesthetic potential of this everyday gesture as Lori Waxman presents a lecture on walking works followed by the chance to enact several pieces for yourself, in and around the museum.

An Anti-Guided Walking Tour of the Museum is presented in the Ryan Education Center, located in the Art Institute's Modern Wing. This event is part of the Art Institute's annual Kaleidoscope Festival, allowing families free access to the museum and its events.

Space at this event is limited. Pre-register to secure your spot!

Eventbrite - An Anti-Guided Walking Tour of the Museum

The Cultural ReProducers Event Series is a roaming series of free lectures, performances, and other events designed to allow parents with small children participate more actively in the art community. Events take place on weekend mornings and feature great artist-curated programming, on-site childcare and all-ages receptions.

Our goal is twofold: to give parents and their kids the chance to participate as critical members of the arts community, and to inspire cultural institutions to better serve artists and audiences, providing positive models for future programming. This project is made possible through support from the Propeller Fund.

Christine Hill, Tourguide? 1999
Frequently Asked Questions:

I’m not a parent. Can I come? Absolutely, and bring your friends. We hope these events will be of interest to anyone engaged in the arts - not just families. One of our goals is to include parents in the context of the broader art community, which means it’s vital to have non-parents there as part of the conversation too. Be sure to pre-register if you'd like a voucher for free museum admission.

I am a parent. Does my kid have to be in child care, or can I keep them with me? Parents who'd rather keep their children with them during the lecture are welcome to do so. We're just offering the option to participate without the distraction of wrangling small children.

Where in the museum is the Ryan Education Center? If you enter the Modern Wing of the museum on Monroe, you'll find it on the left-hand side, before the admission gates. Whether you're there with kids or not, entry to the Ryan Education Center (and this event) is free.

Why do I need to pre-register for child care? For safety and legal reasons, space is limited to 18 children per event, and we expect it to fill quickly. Registration is first-come, first-served.

What time should I arrive if I have children? Sign-in starts when the museum opens at 10:30 am. The event itself starts at 11 and will last about 45 minutes. Of course, timing with children is often a bit unpredictable. You’re welcome to sign in and quietly join us at any time during the event.

Who will be watching my kids? We’ve hand-picked a great selection of experienced babysitters and playgroup facilitators who will lead hands-on activities linked to the events that parents will be attending. These are people we know and trust with our own kids regularly. Keep in mind that this is a grassroots, artist-run childcare project, not a licensed daycare facility. You will be asked to read and sign a waiver before registering your child.

What about parking and public transportation?  The Art Institute is easily accessible by CTA train. The Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, and Purple lines all stop above ground at Adams/Wabash, one block west of the museum. The Red and Blue lines stop underground at Monroe, just a few blocks away. Parking downtown can be difficult, but the Art Institute offers reserved parking at several lots within walking distance of the museum if you pay ahead.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cultural ReProducers Meet-up!

This Sunday, JUNE 29th, 2014
Cultural ReProducers Meet-up
Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.
10am - 12pm

Bring the kids and join us as Cultural ReProducers hosts an informal art/play meet-up this coming Sunday morning at the Comfort Station in Logan Square. Enjoy a casual walk through of the exhibition the Swing and the Wall, connect with other artists, writers, musicians, curators and cultural reproducers, blow some bubbles and make chalk drawings. There’ll also be a weekly farmer’s market going on right
John Preus's The Swing
across the street, and the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Fest nearby.

There’s metered parking along Milwaukee Ave., the Logan Square Blue Line Stop is a two block walk, and bikes and strollers are welcome! Bathroom on premises. No RSVP necessary.

Any questions?
Please contact Thea at:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Children Are A People

Artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen presented the following talk as part of The ‘M’ Word, a day of panels dedicated to critical discussion about artists and motherhood, organized by The Feminist Art Project for the 2014 College Art Association Conference. It’s a remarkable piece that reconsiders the role of children both in her own practice and in the art world, and we liked it so much that we asked to share it here. Lise is the author of the forthcoming book "Mothernism," published by Green Lantern Press and The Poor Farm Press.

“Children are a People” implies the perspective that children are not only fellow human beings but also members of a group with its own cultural significance, and that collaborating with children would therefore imply navigating a shared (psychological) space with diplomacy and curiosity.

I borrowed the title from an exhibition held at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (In Humlebæk, north of Copenhagen, where I grew up) in honor of the International year of the child, 1979. Its vision was as simple as it was profound: real art by real artists for real children! Works in the show included a winged contraption on which you could hang from the ceiling and pretend to fly, and a grass-clad Volkswagen Beetle. But what I remember most vividly was a giant MOTHER, (pictured here) - that you could lie inside and pretend you were back in the womb. My visit to this exhibition as a 10 year old was seminal to my own education as an artist, as this was the first time I was addressed at eye level as a museum visitor, not with belittling “kid friendly art”, but instead as an “art friendly kid”.

In order to raise “Art Friendly Kids” -- and by this I mean Children who are interested and invested in art, which in my view is what you look for in a collaborator of any age --instead of conforming to ideas of “Child Friendly Art,” we need to accept the premise of a bilateral knowledge transfer, based on trust. The intersection of family life and artistic practice is contested territory rife with cultural anxiety, but can be fertile ground which can serve as starting points for new artistic strategies.

Here I'll examine some of the “rules” of critical play, knowledge, transfer and trust, as it relates my own experience from collaborating with my son Adam when he was about 4 years old:

The first of these collaborations came about in rather a mundane way: One day after dinner my husband was joking around with Adam, pretending to eat him, and I recorded the event with a digital camera, as one does. When Adam felt that his luck was running out, he introduced an inflatable plastic crocodile into the game, to eat his dad - and let him win the game. When I looked at the pictures afterwards, I couldn’t help feeling a slight pang of jealousy: “Damn, if I could only draw something like that,” followed by “…why not?”

In the following months, we acted and recorded a number of short scenarios, resulting in the body of work 'Stories for Boys' from 2004: simple narratives consisting of 7-8 drawings each. Most of the storylines were triggered by everyday experience - Daddy Chainsaw Massacre is a tale of jealousy and woe in which Adam takes revenge on his dad for ignoring him while playing with his nephews, while the purchase of a Halloween skeleton suit inspired the adventures of “Skeleton Boy” -an orphaned skeleton baby who is found by “Mummy Death” one day as she roams the forest; an alter-ego invented to make his fears, inherent to growing up, a subject of conversation and jest.

Young children’s fascination with scary things can be disturbing for parents, but it is nevertheless important to them. Sometimes what one is afraid of has to be wrapped up in something more comfortable in order to cope. Hence the theme in many of these role playing games of ‘playing dead’. Like the classic game “you are the monster mummy and I am the monster baby”, they reinforce the parent/child relationship and serve as affirmation of the recurring question “would you still love me if...”
Mummy Death & the Skeleton Baby, 2004, pencil on paper

Tellingly, there is also a parallel development to the obsession with morbidity in this age group: the development of humor. Not only are we facing the blind wall of our own death, we also find the jib door to get us out of this cul-de sac: the joke! And so, to me at least, these stories are also very funny. As an example, Mommy and the Hoover teaches you how to deal with the sheer feeling of disempowerment that makes you want to hoover up your mummy if she doesn’t behave. Either way, you don’t have to be 4 years old to sympathize. This last story came about as straightforward bargain: One day when I was telling Adam off for something he’d done he turned to me and said, "Mom, when you talk to me like that I just wanna throw you on the floor so you break and then hoover you up in the hoover." And I said, "Ok, you get to do that if I get to photograph it! "

What fascinates me in these stories is the way children conquer the world through play, and how they manipulate the world in order to make sense of it and to get to grips with the sometimes frightening truths you encounter in recognizing the limitations of your own individuality.

from the series House Arrest, 2005
In terms of narrative structures children’s logic and solutions are often surprisingly elegant. An example of this is 'House Arrest,' a story I developed partly in frustration over my at times homebound existence, in which I play the guitar thief which is arrested and driven off by two police officers. It ended on Adam’s suggestion of a lighter, playful note with an air guitar session at the police station, which in turn became the next series, 'Electric Motherland.'

Through our work with these stories I (re)discovered what I already knew, namely that children are deep — sometimes disturbingly so — and they don’t shy away from big existential problems if given the opportunity to delve into them. Their wild and weirdly fantastic narratives are not a threat to their sense of reality, but serve as reaffirmation of, and ongoing commentary on, same reality. And this intersection of fantasy and reality is where play, and art, can happen.

Even so, to many of those in support of art education for kids, the notion of kids as a topic or as participants in the ‘real’ art world remains an uneasy notion. Part of this reserve, I believe, stems from the fact that mothers -- not the mythological creatures, but the real ones and their very real experiences — are still a rarity in the contemporary art museum and in academic discourse.

In ‘The Family Track: Keeping your Faculties while you Mentor, Nurture, Teach and Serve’ Coiner and George offers this explanation: “the fear of children [in academia] specifically extends from adults’ distinct awareness of the capacity of children [...] Children embarrass us because they point ever too cleverly and clearly to our denial of personal, material, and maternal history.” Motherhood, it seems, is still too embarrassingly feminine a topic for the art establishment to embrace.

But outside of that, I am convinced that the latent issue of “exploitation” in relation to children as collaborative art producers arises because we, collectively, do not children seriously as (critical) cultural agents, alongside adults. In other words, even when we invite children to contribute to the production of artwork, we still assume that they do not have a stake or an interest in the art world for which these works are conceived.

The implied knowledge being that children don’t “get” art, and so if they are involved in any
matter of art production, this innocence must have been taken advantage of -and they can therefore only participate in cultural production as “nimble fingers”, their “nimble wits” left unexplored.

Added to this is the fact that the art market values a steady art production, in order to ‘market’ an artist, whereas a (true) collaboration with your child will develop with it –which in
Eskimo Kiss of Death, 2004, oil and acrylic on panel
turn might mean that just as you have “struck gold” with something that resonates with your professional support system (gallery, museum or whatever), your collaborator might already have moved on… at which point you need to make clear to yourself where your loyalties lie and who you are advocating for!

I decided to end my presentation with a picture from last summer’s Great Poor Farm Experiment in Wisconsin, where Adam assisted me in installing my Mothernism tent. Although this was not strictly speaking a collaborative work, I was very happy when he referred to it as our installation. The week we spent building there together, reminded me of one of the cardinal rules of collaboration: Shared investment involves shared decision-making.

In the works with 'Stories for Boys' I used as my example, our respective roles were fairly clear-cut: Adam being the storyteller and I the illustrator, with a clear distinction between the home and the studio. But if I ever wondered about it, Adams investment and authorship in these drawings became apparent, when on the day of the opening, he ran ahead to the gallery space and opened the door to me and my friends with the greeting:

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Swing and the Wall

John Preus's The Swing, made from discarded public school chairs
This Saturday is the beginning of The Swing and The Wall: Envisioning new autonomous learning, Rethinking school, Reimagining Chicago, a collaborative project put together by several artists and artist groups at the Comfort Station, an art space in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.

The Swing and the Wall features a temporary stage set made from discarded Chicago Public School desks and chairs, prototyping an everyday free theater, housed in the cozy space of the Comfort Station. Designed as a test site for ideas about programmed and unstructured play and learning, the exhibition's minimal built environment will be activated by an ongoing series of events and performances, including the upcoming chocolate meditation (!), bookbinding workshop, and comedy showcase.

These learning-based social events are all focused around the central theme of education, a topic that resonates with most parents. By experimenting with various modes and philosophies of education and openly discussing public education and school reform, The Swing and The Wall tries to challenge and empower viewers of all ages to exercise agency over their own education.

Don't miss the opening is this Saturday night from 7-9pm, as artist & parent Laura Shaeffer performs with her kids to music played by artist parent John Preus. It’s a potluck, so join us for food, music and frightening statistics!

I am 9 and Southside Hub of Production proclaim four Sundays in June for creative idleness and pleasurable learning, inviting everyone to participate in both a programmed and drop-in way.

Projects Include:
The Swing, created by John Preus 
The Wall, created by Kevin Reiswig
with a mind map by Jim Duignan
and contributions by Jerry Marciniack,
North Branch Projects,
Sammuel Petrichos of Spice!,
Eleanor Ray, Clive Tanaka,
Kate Hadley Williams, David Yontz,
You, and many more to come!

Curated by Thea Liberty Nichols

For a full schedule of events see their Facebook page.
Drop by or contact to get involved