Friday, December 18, 2015

Residency Report: Family-in-Residence, Three Ways

Residency Report is an ongoing series of posts from artists undertaking creative residencies with their families. Find out about programs that support artists with kids, and see how other artist-parents balance the residency experience.

Sarah Neville is an Australian chorographer, theatre director, and multimedia performance maker whose current work examines climate change, the effects of which are rapidly impacting the landscape she calls home. Her recent practice incorporates an ongoing series of Family-in-Residence projects together with her two young daughters and her husband, scientist and musician Matthew Thomas, to creatively explore the environment, human impact, and the next generation. We’re thoroughly pleased to share her thoughts on family residency here, a process that continues to evolve and change.

Until recently I spent most of my time researching new projects, applying for grants and leading teams of collaborators in a creative process. Over the last two years I have been sustaining my arts practice through a ‘family in residence’ model. Having young children has changed my perception of work and life. I realised that this was not just a phase of life I needed to manage but that my life can positively inform my creative practice. My husband’s field is music and visual arts, but his primary work is in the science of Human Factors, and together with Miranda (now 6) and Florence (2) we have pursued research on the artistic project Weather Lore / Speculative Culture over a series of family-focused residencies.

'Changing the world will always require action and participation in the public realm, but in our time that will no longer be sufficient. We'll have to change the way we live, too. What that means is that the sites of our everyday engagement with nature - our kitchens, gardens, houses, cars - matter to the fate of the world in a way they never have before.' - Michael Pollan, “Cooked”

Family in Residence I: FoAM
How we live matters to the fate of the world. Our first residency was facilitated by FoAM in Brussels, Belgium, who explore ways of living and working as creative processes. They are also committed to the concept of the ‘family in residence,’ and so were a great fit for us.
Working as an independent artist means I can organize work around my own availability and creative focus. Thanks to FoAM and their very generous family in residence program, in 2012 I travelled to Europe with five-month-old Florence in tow. We spent a week in a mini castle in Istria near the legendary city of Motovun, participated in a futurists meeting at Time’s Up Austria, and ended by consolidating our residency at FoAM headquarters in Brussels. Throughout, Florence was great company.

The residency was structured to include our whole family. Collaborating remotely from our home base in Australia, my husband Matt experimented with sound and Miranda sent drawings and stories in response to the creative content generated there. FoAM founders and collaborators Nik Gaffney and Maja Kumonovic not only contributed creative ideas, but picked up the ‘hard to do with a baby in your arms’ tasks like note taking and documenting. I am not sure what I would have done without any of them.

In my experience, working in the performing arts cannot by design be a selfish pursuit, so there has been no giant shift in life perspective now that I am responsible for a family. It goes without saying that without a sense of others in the world then collectives would fail, partnerships dissolve and collaborations would bomb. During my residency, Florence’s smile, giggle and attentive observation of the world were a delight.

All in all we arrived home with much gained. For Florence, a sense of herself in a larger world. For Miranda, that wherever I am I cherish her involvement in my work. For Matt, that creative collaboration is part of the glue of our relationship, whether that is formalized in an artistic collaboration or the creative stuff of flexible parenting. For me, high quality artmaking takes fabulous teams of people working together seamlessly; the same goes with creative parenting and a workable family life.

Family in Residence II: Adhocracy
The following year we trialled the Foam model at the art lab Adhocracy at Vitalstatistix in Port Adelaide, Australia. Here I found that my creative drive was by necessity directed into being active in daily life: cooking, playing with the children, caring for our plants and talking to our visitors. Whilst I was frustrated at not being able to focus on my work in a way I was used to, by bringing my domestic life with me and living the artistic questions that came up, I found a new method of working. We also had challenges with visibility. Our residency was the only event not reviewed, and there was little documentation taken of our presence by the arts organisation. This raised the question of whether a domestic space can be perceived as a public space and whether family life/ artistic work can possibly co-exist in the spectators’ expectations.  

Family in Residence III: Oratunga Sheep Station
Our most recent iteration of Artist-Family-in-Residence finished on the first week of November at Oratunga Sheep Station in the Flinders Rangers, facilitated through Open-Space. Here Matt, Florence and I were alone, without outside arts facilitators, at a large sheep station. Interestingly, though we were based in a house, domestics were not as in focus as the last residency, which was housed in an arts organisation. The home was not ours, and the landscape and weather immediately dominated our experience. Our presence as a family definitely softened our relationship with the larger community and, as in our first residency, Experiencing the world through Florence’s senses certainly heightened our observations of the world around us and fed into the richness and depth of our artistic enquiry. 

To Be Continued
I am still uneasy with my new method of artistic practice. Sitting alone researching, sorting, and speculating is an old habit to kick. However the Artist-Family model is similar to contemporary dance/ performance studio practice in the short time of practical creativity that comes after the millions of hours of planning, grant writing and imagining. Whilst you enter with a depth of knowledge and a handful of expectations, what happens ‘on the floor’ is what really matters. Managing energy, personalities, co-operation, and synergy of ideas becomes the main state of play. With a family this state of play is the full focus of the creative journey, and what is really exciting is that creative outcomes become grounded in family history.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Mothernists, Rotterdam

Mothernists and children at Upominki - image courtesy of Weronika Zielinska

Last summer Cultural ReProducers took part in not one but two international gatherings exploring the role of motherhood in creative work. A little while ago we shared our report on Part I, the Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference in London, England. Now at last we're sharing Part II, on The Mothernists in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

From June 5th - 7th, 2015,  a group of artists, curators and scholars came together in Rotterdam to take part in The Mothernists, a remarkable three-day conference on cultural reproduction and creativity in caring labor.  The event was organized by the Dutch based m/other voices foundation, and sparked by the work of the Danish artist and writer Lise Haller Baggesen, whose recent book, “Mothernism” and its interconnected installation work reframe the language of the mother-artist.

a shared meal before the event at PrintRoom
In contrast to the large-scale Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference in London earlier the same week, the Mothernists was an intimate gathering, emphasizing the exchange of ideas. It featured thirteen presenters from eight countries, a gallery exhibition, a reading / book launch event, and a roundtable discussion, all free and open to the public. Since several presenters were invited to extend their stays in the region to present at both conferences, we had the chance to catch highlights we’d missed in London along with plenty of new material. The Mothernists also offered an important opportunity to process it all: over homemade meals and a shared bottle of ouzo, women from across Europe, Israel, and the Americas had some of the most complex and provocative conversations I’ve heard on artist-parenthood to date.

m/other voices began as a research project initiated by artist, writer, and curator Deirdre M. Donoghue in 2013, and has since developed into a full-fledged organization supporting critical writing, creative projects, and a range of events reflecting on the crucial role of the maternal figure as a thinker and maker. From the m/other voices website:

m/other voices considers maternity as a verb, as a type of labor, rather than as a noun pointing to
presenters at Printroom (from l to r: Lise Haller Baggesen, Karin de Jong,
Christa Donner, Deirdre Donoghue, and Andrea Francke.
a fixed, physiological state of being, the notion of maternity will be examined here as an attitude and as a discipline in the production of art and knowledge. 

This approach was present in every aspect of the conference, resulting in a unique hybrid of critical thought, generosity, and creative exchange. Active participants included not just mothers but also fathers, m/other voices followers, some of whom are not parents themselves, and caregivers of many kinds. Between presentations, participants were offered free massages by local doulas, those women skilled in caring for women first entering motherhood. And instead of congregating in a hotel, (m)other voices coordinated a network of local artists to host out-of-town visitors in their homes (and for a lucky few, a fully-outfitted camper van).

The Mothernists opened on Friday night with a potluck meal and a book launch/reading at PrintRoom, a vibrant bookstore and risograph workshop piled high with small-press, artist-made publications from around the world. Lise Haller Baggesen kicked off the evening with selections from “Mothernism”, followed by dynamic presentations by Andrea Francke on her project “The Invisible Spaces of Parenthood,” Christa Donner on “Propositions, Manifestos and Experiments,” and actress and writer Terri Hawkes on “Performing Motherhood.”

Andrea Francke (top) and mothernist doula care (bottom)
Saturday offered a full day of lectures by curators, writers, and artists including Natalie Loveless, Courtney Kessel, Irene Perez, Shira Richter, Rachel Epp Buller, Mirjam Westen, and many more. For those who couldn’t make it to Rotterdam, video of these presentations are now available online! The sessions took place at Lees Zaal West, a remarkable volunteer-run reading room, book exchange, and community event space created in response to the closure of many of the city’s local libraries.  The presentations were unified in supporting the vital role of motherhood in cultural work, though it is interesting to note that what this means may depend on where you live. The US is exceptionally poor in its support of working parents, with no paid maternity leave and a standard cost for childcare that often exceeds that of rent. In comparison, the Netherlands (as well as Denmark, Japan, Germany…) provides sliding-scale childcare and paid parental leave that encourage mothers to return to work. So while Dutch presenters focused on the re-valuing of maternal caregiving, American and British participants sought support in the form of supplemental childcare to find time for their work. Beyond this point, however, the stigmas and other challenges surrounding motherhood and career seem to be universal, profoundly impacting the type of cultural work that is produced, experienced, and supported both critically and financially.

In the evening, a group meal at the Ethiopian restaurant M'n Schoonmoeder or “My Mother-in-Law” offered space for further conversation before overflowing out and across the street to the nonprofit gallery Upominki for a richly interconnected exhibition curated by Gallery Director Weronika Zielinska, who we learned had just given birth to her second child just a few days before the opening!

The event closed on Sunday with an informal roundtable discussion to process the weekend’s events. There was a sense of urgency to the conversation, and a commitment to continue it in various forms. I packed my bags to return home feeling inspired, supported, and that with collaborators like these, a whole lot is possible. The revolution may happen slowly, organized via Skype after our children are in bed or off to school, but it’s underway. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Interview: Rusty Shackleford

Born in Montgomery, AL in 1978, Rusty Shackleford creates vibrant hybrid images that merge the oozing materiality of painting with the crisp flatness of digital media. His work is represented by Cindy Rucker Gallery in NYC, and has been reviewed in Modern Painters, Beautiful Decay, Flavorpill, NewCity and Art F City. He has been a resident at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Vermont Studio Center and Harold Arts.  He’s also the primary caregiver for his young daughter, Margot. While men and women increasingly share the work of parenting, the assumption persists that it will be mothers - not fathers - whose careers will be reconfigured as their partners return to work. This is not the case in Rusty's family: over the past two years his artistic practice has been shaped in part by the unpredictable time-space of intensive fatherhood, and we're very lucky to have him share his perspectives here. Keep an eye out for his recent projects in two upcoming exhibitions at the Ukranian Institute of Modern Art and at Glass Curtain Gallery, both in Chicago.

Cultural ReProducers: To start, tell us a little bit about your daughter.

Margot Rae Shackleford is a little over 2 years old. She is curious and hilarious. Open and accepting. Empathetic and fearless. She likes to jump off of things and dance. I have been her primary caregiver since she was 3 months old.

Cultural ReProducers: How have you found a workable balance between your artistic work and raising Margot? Any strategies you’d recommend to other artists in the same boat?

Well, honestly, I’m not sure that I have. I think I’ve just chosen to accept that things will always be evolving, and disorder is just the name of the game. I don’t take a lot for granted and when I get the chance to be in studio I try to be as efficient as possible. Every time I think I have some kind of structure nailed down something explodes in my face… whether if it’s by my own doing or life just giving me the finger.

Practically speaking, however, we hired a nanny for two mornings a week. This was really crucial and it allowed me to build a fairly consistent schedule. I would set up tasks that I could accomplish in a single sitting by focusing on making a specific number of images. I would just plow through them and try not to make judgements about the work until a couple of sessions afterward. I let the images sit and marinate and would edit them down later.

top: work in progress
bottom: Floating Orange (installation view)
image courtesy of SideCar Gallery
The problem was that this didn't leave a lot of room for play, which is super frustrating for me. This is something I am still working out. The nanny situation ended and we are now in the process of relocating the homestead to North Carolina. So as it goes, things are ever changing and I’m gonna roll with it and see what it brings.

If I could recommend anything, it would be to cut yourself some slack and don’t have expectations. Children have
their own personalities that you are going to have to adapt to. Try to be nimble and don’t burn it at both ends. Get rest and understand that it’s a process that takes time to figure out. Most likely you will feel a little crazy and that ol’ art guilt will set in. Most of the artist/parents that I know passed through some kind of darkness. It’s normal. Ride it out, keep swinging, and know that this is gonna make you a stronger artist in the end.

CR: Who have been your models for artist-parenting / parent-artisting?

There are so many! I think I associate more with artists who have kids than artists who don’t! Justin Witte and Olivia Schreiner, Heather Mekkelson, Selina Trepp, Craig Yu, and Cole Pierce. If I had to name a few who had an impact on me it would be these. It has been encouraging watching these artists deal with the challenges of parenting and making art. Everyone responds to it differently, but one solid characteristic that seems to connect them all is that everyone seems relentless. Just soldiers. Art is hard enough as is but making art and having kids puts another level on it. I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to glean information from their battles. We didn’t get to hang out a lot, but when we did I always walked away feeling recharged and a little wiser. Parenting can be isolating, and sometimes friends and colleagues drop away. Having a solid community to fall back on is really necessary, even if it's for short periods of time. 

 CR: Beyond time-management, has parenthood impacted your creative practice or the processes you employ in any unexpected ways? If so, how?

Not specifically. However, even though this might sound a little cliche, I absolutely love watching children draw. There is such a positive energy in their mark making. It really is pure. We have this chalkboard that Margot draws on and she just goes to town. Sometimes I’m really envious. It’s really made me want to draw more. To just let go and make marks. I’m hoping after I get through this move and the next couple of shows I can make some time for this. In the meantime though I’m really just enjoying watching Margot draw.

CR: How has fatherhood affected your own relationship with the art world and/or career? What kinds of barriers or expectations have you encountered that need to be addressed?

Rusty: Fatherhood has slowed me down a lot, in a positive way. There is a demand for presence and structure that has resonated well with me. It didn’t happen overnight and on occasion I fought it tooth and nail, but once I started to fully embrace it I found that a lot of the noise that was rummaging around in me started to subside. I am more aware of what I need to maximize my creativity now that
Margot is in my life. And also I’m just not as concerned with proving my creative abilities to everyone anymore. I have begun let go of strict notions of success, which I feel are terribly destructive to my creative process and spirit. I take more comfort in knowing that art is bigger than me and that I am in this for the long haul. So I have been focusing more on where art fits into this larger formula for my entire being.

work in progress
Also, detours have pretty much been a constant in my life. I have gone through a lot of mutations and changes in my career. Whether it was forsaking art altogether for a stint in undergrad or working a crappy day job 40-50 hours a week, my practice has been built around this sort of structure of resistance. Before my daughter was born, these roadblocks felt overwhelming and detrimental. I was pretty much ruled by anxiety because of them: I often worried about things like not getting into shows, not making enough work….you know, the typical BS that comes with the territory. I’m not saying that I don’t still have those anxieties, but my responses to them are much more measured. I have learned that ambition has its place but my practice is contingent on the stability and health of my family and my personal well-being, which is actually nurtured more from sources that are outside of art culture. I feel fatherhood brought about this revelation in me. It is also still very much unfolding.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Interview: Jill Miller

artist's rendering of 'the Getaway Van,' part of a new project by artists Jill Miller and Marianna Taylor.. a
Jill Miller is a visual artist who creates socially engaged art works centered on maternal practices and creativity. She has searched for Bigfoot in the Sierra Nevada, inserted herself into the art historical work of John Baldessari, engaged homeschooling as a lens for artistic production, and launched The Milk Truck, an eye-popping emergency vehicle for breastfeeding mothers, in Pittsburgh, PA. This year the Milk Truck gets a makeover as part of ArtReach Studios, a reinvention of the artist residency program created in collaboration with writer Marianna Taylor.

ArtReach is a radical revision of the artist residency that supports the creative work work of families, who are often excluded from typical residency opportunities. The project is fully mobile, incorporating both a vintage camper and the former Milk Truck, both fully outfitted with custom cabinetry, workspace, tools and materials. The project offers two innovative programs: a Family-in-Residence initiative fostering projects by artist-families working collaboratively with local neighborhoods, and the Getaway Van, offering 3-5 day micro-residencies for artists who are primary caregivers. ArtReach offers a level of support previously unheard-of, working with each artist to coordinate meals and childcare or eldercare so that residents can focus on their creative work. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited about this new project, and had plenty of questions for Jill about ArtReach, her life and work.

Body Configurations from the "Homeschooled" series
Cultural ReProducers: First off, could you briefly describe your kids in your own words?

Jill Miller:
Paxton, age 9, intense, brilliant, a better artist than I! Argo, age 5, incredible sense of humor and obsessed with sharks and other water animals. We gave him the right name.

CR: Your work has playfully engaged family life since your kids were very young. Who have been your role models for artist-parenting/parent artisting, or more broadly the intersection of art and everyday life?

I have been most influenced by feminist artists, especially groups like Mother Art, who made art about motherhood when that was not popular in the feminist art circles. I’m also influenced by Mary Kelly, who was my mentor in graduate school. And of course Mierle Ukeles, who was engaging in social practices before we had a name for it.

The Milk Truck mobile breastfeeding unit (top image)
in-progress view of its transformation for ArtReach residency (bottom)
CR: The Milk Truck tackled issues of harassment and access for nursing mothers. Your newest project, ArtReach, reframes the format of the traditional artist residency – something artists often feel is out of their grasp once they become parents - to create a program supporting the work of artists who are also caregivers. How did this project come about?

The true germination happened when my first child was born, just two years after I finished my MFA. I was exhibiting regularly until he was born. He was such an intense little human that I had to say no to a lot of opportunities that came up, and it became clear to me that the traditional model for an art career (travel, residencies) wasn’t going to work. Years later, when I met Marianna Taylor, who is my collaborator on this project, we started having conversations about motherhood and creative practices. She has an MFA in creative writing and an intense first child, so we connected over that. We talked for years about wanting other mothers to have a space for their work in a way that we didn’t.

CR: What's your own relationship to artist residencies, before and after having kids?

I never did the residency circuit the way some of my friends did. I always worked in the summers between the academic years, and then right after I graduated I had a faculty position lined up at the San Francisco Art Institute. I did a residency at Stanford when Paxton was about 9 months old, and it was nontraditional in the sense that I had access to the facilities and got to go to campus as many times as I wanted. It wasn’t immersive, but it was what I needed at the time.

Jill nursing in Pittsburgh's City Capitol building during
a proclamation of "Milk Truck Day" by the City Council
CR: Like a lot of artists raising kids, you wear many hats. How do you find a balance between parenting, teaching, and an art practice that now includes running a nonprofit?

It’s taken years to align family life with my creative practice and teaching. When I’m teaching, my classes cover social sculpture or critical, participatory artmaking, which is aligned with my own practice. They feed each other. When we do community events with the Family in Residence program at ArtReach, I can bring my kids and they can participate. My eldest son has some special needs, so my artwork has to be flexible to work with my family. It seems like right now things are coming together in this very wonderful way. But ask me next month and things may have completely fallen apart!

CR: Right now ArtReach focuses on artists based in the Bay Area. I know lots of artists will want to know: are there any plans to make it available to artists from outside of the region? Or is this a creative model you’d like to see other institutions expand upon?

We hope to bring the truck across the US next year after we’ve piloted the program in the SF East Bay. This will require additional fundraising, and we are looking for partner institutions. I’d love to see The Getaway Van take a Transamerican tour.

We'd love to see that happen, too! To learn more about the project visit the ArtReach residency website, donate to help support what they're doing, and if you’re near the Bay Area, be sure to apply.
inside the new ArtReach residency truck, with workspace, storage, and chalkboard walls.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Artist-Run Events: Mather Seerlo's Hair Fair at the Smart Museum of Art

Saturday, August 1st, 1-4pm
Mather Seerlo’s Hair Fair

The Smart Museum of Art

5550 S. Greenwood Ave, Chicago

Join Chicago’s Official Ambassador for Hair Affairs, Mather Seerlo, for an intergenerational event exploring hair and art in the courtyard of the Smart Museum of Art. Wearing a triangular wig of hair from his ancestors alongside hair-like materials found along the streets of Chicago, Mather Seerlo is the creative alter-ego of artist M.T. Searle. Let him be your guide during an afternoon of wonderfully surreal hair-art projects including hair-mop monoprints and giant collaborative wig helmets, free haircuts by local artists (first come first served), a hairdo contest (you bring the style, we'll bring the prizes), an artist-run photo booth, the sweet harmonies of a barbershop quartet wafting over the museum's courtyard, and so much more. At this festival, the first of its kind, (EVER) you’ll have the chance to create surprising new images and objects using real hair, wigs, and magazine clippings while enjoying the hairlike Greek treat kataifi.

The Smart Museum and Cultural ReProducers will also provide an outdoor play area for small children, complete with grass, blankets, and shade.

  *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
This event is the final event of this summer's Cultural ReProducers Artist-Run Series: free, intergenerational happenings designed with artists throughout the city of Chicago, organized in conjunction with exhibitions, residencies, and other projects. These family friendly events aren’t just for kids. Parents, non-parents, and participants of all ages are welcome.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Artist-Run Events: Sonja Thomsen at DPAM

Saturday, July 18th
, 10 - 11:30am
Sonja Thomsen All-Ages Gallery Talk

the DePaul Museum of Art

935 W. Fullerton Ave, Chicago

In conjunction with the solo exhibition ‘Glowing Wavelengths in Between,’  Milwaukee-based multimedia artist and mother Sonja Thomsen leads a family friendly gallery tour of her multifaceted photographs, sculpture and installation. Thomsen draws upon extensive experimentation and research into optical phenomena to create a layered body of work engaging “the very physicality of seeing.”  Thomsen’s studio processes, the optical qualities of her work, and the Saturday morning timing of this event (the museum opening its doors earlier than usual) will appeal to all ages.

You're also invited to join us for an informal artist reception with light refreshments will follow the talk. Space will be available for nursing mothers and families who need a break at any time during the event.

This event is part of the Cultural ReProducers Artist-Run Series: free, intergenerational happenings designed with artists throughout the city of Chicago, organized in conjunction with exhibitions, residencies, and other projects. These family friendly events aren’t just for kids. Parents, non-parents, and participants of all ages are welcome.

installation view, Sonja Thomsen: Glowing Wavelengths In Between,  image credit: Kendall McCaugherty

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Motherhood and Creative Practice, London

the inimitable Griselda Pollock addresses the audience at the Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference.

This June, Cultural ReProducers took part in not one but two international gatherings exploring the role of motherhood in creative work. Here's our rundown of Part I:  the Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference in London.
Stay tuned for more about some of the great people and projects we encountered, and for Part II: the Mothernists, a three-day event in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

For anyone still harboring doubts that great artistic and scholarly work can go hand in hand with the labor of raising a child, this year's Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference, presented from June 1-2 at London South Bank University, offered a resounding affirmation of critical maternal thought.

Rachel Epp Buller presents on lactivist art intervention
During the past five years there has been a groundswell in work exploring the intersections of artmaking and parenthood. As soon as the call for abstracts was announced online, news of the  Motherhood and Creative Practice Conference spread rapidly despite its modest online presence. Organizers Dr. Elena Marchevska and Valerie Walkerdine had expected interest from a small group of local scholars, but soon found their inbox filled with more than 100 proposals from around the world. Being the skilled improvisers that mothers often are, they rose to the occasion and organized two jam-packed days of multimedia presentations by more than 60 leading feminist scholars, psychoanalysts, curators and artists, complemented by a rich program of film screenings, performances, and small exhibitions.

With so many presenters on the schedule, three panels ran simultaneously every hour in different parts of a labyrinthine LSBU building. Unlike more broadly-themed conferences in which deciding which panel to attend depends on your area of specialty, here it was often painfully difficult to choose. To get a sense of the options you can check out the full program online. Philosopher, artist, and psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger opened the event with a heady discussion on carriance and the matrixial gaze accompanied by a projection of her hypnotic video work (I have since decided that all future lectures involving dense theoretical language should be presented this way). Faith Wilding and Irina Aristarkhova launched the second day with their riveting exploration of the real and speculative ramifications of surrogacy, IVF tourism, exogenesis, and the global market for
Christa introducing Cultural ReProducers
human tissue and egg donation. And prominent art historian and cultural scholar Griselda Pollock miraculously wove everything together into two smart and thoughtful session summaries.

Efforts were made to offer on-site childcare during the conference, albeit for a fee, but unfortunately - whether due to cost, ambivalence, or lack of information - not enough participants signed up to make this option viable in the end. A few mothers bounced, rocked, and fed their babies through sessions, while others worked out arrangements with family members. Several had to rush off before the day was done to collect their kids from local creches or schools.

Those of us visiting from out of town fit in time to visit some of London's great cultural institutions, and parental art seemed to be everywhere, from the abundance of 19th century maternal imagery at the Victoria and Albert Museum to Jaan Toomik's "Dancing with Dad" (2003) at Whitechapel Gallery to the Tate Modern's remarkable Sonia Delaunay retrospective, which highlighted Delaunay's first work of abstraction: a blanket created for her newborn son in 1911.

Mary Kelly was there in spirit, and on video
Like any really good party, not everyone could make it. One notable absence was Mary Kelly, matron saint of mother-artists and a scheduled keynote speaker, who had to cancel at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict. A video was screened of her lecture earlier that week (though technical difficulties made it hard to decipher), followed by a response by scholar and MaMSIE co-founder Dr. Lisa Baraitser. There were noticeably few women of color present, a reflection of another imbalance in academia and the art world that will be important to consider as this conversation continues to evolve. On the intergenerational spectrum of things, though, the conference was incredible. Nursing mothers in the midst of their graduate studies exchanged experiences with seasoned feminist grandmothers. The discussion was also enriched by the voices of artists without children, including Miriam Schaer, who spoke eloquently about cultural bias against childless women and the challenges of “reverse mothering,” or caring for an aging parent.

processing some serious maternal thought over drinks
Beyond the formal presentations, this gathering brought together an incredible number of like-minded artists, curators, and scholars to meet in person for the first time. Catching a quick bite to eat between sessions we connected with members of Dublin’s Mothership Project, Rotterdam's m/other voices, London’s Enemies of Good Art and Invisible Spaces of Parenthood. Informal convoys took over nearby hotel lounges and restaurants to talk late into the night. After closing remarks on Tuesday, LSBU’s Edric Theater buzzed with women exchanging contact information, taking group photographs, and planning future projects. It seems clear that these conversations are just getting started, and we look forward to seeing what’s to come.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Interview: Courtney Kessel

In Balance With.
We are thoroughly pleased to feature an interview with artist, mother, academic and arts administrator Courtney Kessel, who strives to make visible the quiet, understated, and often unseen love and labor of motherhood. Employing sculpture, performance, video, and sound, her work transcends the local binary of public/ private and extends into the repositioning of the ongoing, non-narrative, excessive dialogic flow that occurs within the domestic space. 

Born in 1974 in Pittsburgh, PA, Kessel has exhibited her work internationally, including New Maternalisms at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago Chile, FAMILY MATTERS: Living and Representing Today’s Family, Centre for Contemporary Culture Strozzina, Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy, the Tampa Museum of Art, Exit Art, New York, NY, St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art and with the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. She was included in Renegades: 25 Years of Performance at Exit Art (2007). Kessel is the Exhibitions & Events Coordinator for The Dairy Barn Arts Center, and teaches in the School of Art at Ohio University. Find more of her work at

Interview by Christina LaMaster for Cultural ReProducers
Cultural ReProducers:  Courtney, I would assume that most people familiar with your work know that you have a daughter.  Can you tell us a little bit about her?

Courtney Kessel:  My daughter, Chloé Cash Clevenger, is 10 years old. She is named for the fresh blade of grass in the spring and after Johnny Cash, who died earlier that year.  She is a confident person who will try different foods (at least once), listen to a variety of music, talk to people without discrimination of age, sex, or race, and is super creative in her play.  Right now, she is making a sidewalk chalk obstacle course with objects along the two streets that border our house.

CR: How do you find a balance between parenthood, artmaking, and making ends meet? How has parenthood impacted your creative practice?

Courtney: I think it is apparent in my work that I have made a definitive choice to be transparent about my maternity.  In fact, I use it as a vehicle for discussion.  Placing the private and domestic in the gallery performs a maternal visibility that has not often been seen, let alone been permitted.  The strangest thing of all is the fact that we all have mothers.  There is this weird unwritten thing of invisibility of motherhood, like it’s supposed to just happen and not be talked about, especially not in the gallery. While it is the most common experience among women, it is the least represented BY women.  Most of the maternal artwork done has been that of amazing, talented painters USING the maternal as a point of departure to represent woman and child, not speaking FROM it.

Achieving balance is a constant struggle that has its roots in adjustment.  When I was in grad school (2009-2012), I made my day 9-5 except when classes met in the evenings and I hired a sitter. Many days, Chloe would be in the studio with me and sometimes had to come with me to class.  Naturally, I would take my work home.  Then the work started to come from ‘home’.  I began to take the domestic space and put it in the gallery.  Now, I work full time at a non-profit art gallery and am still trying to figure out how to come home at 5 or 6pm, sometimes go to violin or soccer, make dinner, get her to bed and still have enough energy to get into the small bedroom that I call my studio.  In 2011, I did the performance piece, In Balance With, as a way to illustrate the absurdity of that balance!  We have performed that piece almost once a year since then.  It has become a portrait or still of us at that moment which reflects the ‘current’ balance structure. It is constantly changing. 

CR: Can you share a little about your experience returning to a studio practice after having a newborn? Any strategies or tips you’d recommend (or recommend avoiding!) to other artist-parents for getting through that phase?  

Courtney:  I had uprooted from NYC to Morehead, Kentucky, six months pregnant, so everything was new to me then.  As I spent my days breastfeeding and changing diapers, that experience began to inform my practice.  I made breast milk drawings and used it as a mixing medium, but that felt like a stepping-stone.  It felt natural to be using these materials, as they were what I was around all the time.  Later, my practice shifted to be less about the newness and bodiliness of maternity and more about how I felt as a mother.  The specificity of being a mother is something that not all women have.  That is the distinct difference between the Feminist work being done in the 70s during the second wave.  A lot of work was being done ABOUT women and women’s experience, but not a lot was about motherhood. Thanks to those artists working in the second wave, we can continue the conversation and open it up to include a dialog with maternity.  Then it was (and is still) frowned upon to be a (female) artist AND be a mother, not even to consider MAKING art about that experience.  I think I just got on a soap box…

CR:  Who have been your models for artist-parenting / parent-artisting?

Courtney:  I feel like at the time I became a parent (2004) I didn’t really have any! I was going on the fact that if I didn’t make, I would die.  Based on that, I applied to proposal-based things and if I got it, I’d make it.  Like assignments, these things just kept me going. Eventually, my practice evolved into a sort of protest where my Feminist foremothers (Mary Kelly and Mierle Laderman Ukeles) paved the way for me to make the work that I make now.  Like I said before, there weren’t that many (known) mothers in the gallery.  Now, I have so many peers working along themes of the maternal!  So many that I’m afraid to list them, but I’ll try because they deserve acknowledgement: Lise Haller Baggesen, Lenka Clayton, Natalie Loveless, Alejandra Herrera Silva, Jill Miller, Christen Clifford, Marni Kotak, just to name a few! Then there are the scholars writing about the maternal: Rachel Epp Buller, Natalie and Lise (above), Jennie Klein, Lisa Baraitser not to mention the heavy hitters: Mary Kelly, Griselda Pollock, Bracha Ettinger, Sarah Ruddick, Andrea Liss, Patricia DiQuinzio… I should stop because there are so many and this list is by no means comprehensive.

The point is that that very specific experience of being a mother, while different for everyone, is still all about an Other person!  No matter when or where we go, that Other is always a part of our lives.  I think this could be part of the "maternal gaze" that you speak about in your work, Chrissy. I address this in my work as the “stuff” in our lives.  If you are a mother (and I can only speak to being a mother, not a father), you have this stuff in your life that someone who does not have children will not have.  You know what I’m talking about: strollers, car seats, clothing, toys, books, bikes, skates, dolls, diapers, bottles, baby slings/carriers...that’s just the physical stuff.  There is also the mental stuff.  If you are a mother, you are always a mother.  From the mountain of “stuff” that goes onto the seesaw (In Balance With) to the free standing sculptures of ‘stuff’ (Mother Lode), I am addressing this fact of life with child as opposed to without.

CR:  Has having children affected your relationship with the art world? What would
you like to see change to make that community more inclusive and accessible for artists with families?

Courtney:  The thing is, I am not all for making everything available to children.  As a feminist and a woman in general, I am for equality in the gallery, as with other aspects of life.  If it is fine and maybe even lucrative for a male artist to be a father and be successful in the gallery, then it should also be for a female artist...though we all know it’s not. I mean, who cares if this or that artist is a mother?!? Let her make the work and judge the work accordingly!  Critically.  Theoretically, in the context of the contemporary dialogue.  The above scholars are making the maternal a definitive part of the discourse.

CR:  What about attending openings, lectures or other events as a mother/artist?  Do you sometimes wish there were or feel there is a need for more venues that provide child care or a kid friendly room where parents could nurse or take a break with children they bring to the event? Would that have been beneficial to you earlier in your career?

Courtney:  When Chloé was 10 months old, I had a sculpture installation in an outdoor exhibition in Dumbo. It was an 8’ in diameter nest made out of saplings, fabric, plastic, and other found materials.  It was human scaled and during the opening, which was outside, Chloé was hungry and tired, so I started to nurse her in the nest.  She fell asleep and I laid her down and covered her up.  So many comments were made as to ‘where the mother is’ (scolding) and ‘what a realistic sculpture’ (it couldn’t be about maternity) and ‘where is the artist’ (disbelief)? I feel that those three comments really speak to the state of lack that mothers have in terms of merging family and career.  Later during our visit to NYC, we went to a party for Diesel, the clothing company. It was a posh rooftop pool party in the city.  What was AMAZING to me then (2005) was that on the first floor, they had a child-watching play space.  There were people there to watch your children while you went upstairs to have some time sans children.  I didn’t leave her because she was so young (I felt - new mother…), but it did make me feel like having the baby around was acceptable.  We even got in the pool for awhile!

CR:  Wow, now I'm curious if having children around is more acceptable in the music world, or the fashion world — I hadn’t really considered that before.   

Speaking of your daughter, Chloé is a frequent collaborator of yours, and you have spoken about allowing her to make decisions regarding her contributions to the work; I’m thinking specifically of In Balance With, where Chloe decides the performance is over.  Do you have a feeling for how long Chloé will want to be a collaborator, or be referenced in your work, and how do you think your work and practice might change if/when she decides she is no longer interested?  Later this month photographer Sally Mann’s memoir will be released, and in it she discusses some of the many issues she has dealt with as a result of her monograph Immediate Family.  Have you ever felt conflicted about working with Chloe or referencing her in your work?

Courtney:  I absolutely have felt conflicted about having Chloé participate in my work.  At the beginning, she was very innocent about understanding the work, but the more we talked about it, the more she kind of understood it.  The video piece, Sharing Space, originated from being in a restaurant with freezing cold A.C.  She was cold and put her arms into my cardigan while I was wearing it.  She said that would be a cool performance and I agreed.  I planned to record this action in a variety of scenarios in the studio one day, which led to the edited video work.  As she gets older, her level of participation grows and changes.  The first time we performed In Balance With, I had NO idea how it would end!  It wasn’t until we had reached a balance that I asked if she wanted to come down.  She said no.  It was then that I realized the piece would be over when she was ‘finished’ with it.  It became a direct reference about me and my work.  I could not do my work unless she was occupied and content. When she is done with something or needs something, I am interrupted with the unknown timeframe as to when I will be able to return to my work.  That is how she came to determine the end.  It wasn’t really a collaboration.

The fact remains that while she is an integral role to some works, the majority of my work is speaking from the voice of a mother: my voice.  I know, as with most children, that she will grow “out of” hanging with and doing things with her mother.  I think that my work is in direct relationship to us, like a portrait or a film still.  While we are so intricately involved (less now than when breastfeeding and learning to walk, etc.), my work reflects that.  Who knows what will happen later? What remains is that I am still a mother and will always be. So where my work may directly involve my daughter now, it may respond to only my experience later.  I just think that every day is so different with children as they grow and change and we constantly adjust…. One day she said to me, “Mom, your artwork is all about me” and I said, “No, actually it is not ABOUT you, it is BECAUSE of you”...

CR (Christina LaMaster):  A lot of my own recent work deals with motherhood, mothering and the maternal gaze.  Many artists, gallery directors and graduate school professors have warned against this content  because the work will not be taken seriously, and that only other mothers will be interested.  I have also been accused of being exclusive: I’m a white, middle class, hetero-normative mother and my work is mainly about the experiences of others with similar backgrounds.  Have you ever encountered these types of critiques?

Courtney: I personally have not had that kind of criticism of only mothers being interested or about being exclusive.  I think it’s so interesting that people feel the need to include everyone!  How would I know how it feels to father?  How could I understand the dynamics of being a lesbian mother? An African American mother? I just hope that by offering my own personal story, others will bring their experiences to the discussion. Young children relate to the work because they recognize their own mothers mothering similarly.  College students understand it because they remember it or have younger siblings who they see their mother taking care of.  Fathers recognize it. Grandparents remember it.  Like I said earlier, in a sense I feel that by putting my maternal experience in the gallery, it is a protest for all those artists, gallery directors, and grad school professors who STILL feel that the experience of
being a mother is not valid enough, critical enough, or fertile enough to be in the critical/economical/theoretical discourse of the gallery.

CR:  Would you be willing to share a little bit about what you are working on

Courtney: Yes, some of the current work deals with the domestic space and the "stuff" of having a child mentioned earlier. I've been photographing spaces in my home then taking the prints and cutting out everything that is about Chloé, by Chloé, or of Chloé. The series is called "Without Chloé". It's very haunting and kind of sculptural. I'm still in the very early stages of it and need to think about how it will live.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Artist-Run Events: All-Ages Breakdancing and Doing it All

We’re excited to share not just one, but two great events coming up this June as part of the Cultural ReProducers Artist-Run Series: intergenerational happenings designed by artists throughout the city in conjunction with exhibitions, residencies, and other projects. Participants of all ages are welcome. Hope you can join us!

Saturday, June 13th , 1-4pm 
Shandy Break
Cultural ReProducers + SHoP

Hyde Park Free Theater

1448 E 57th Street, Hyde Park

Interdisciplinary artist and SHoP organizer Laura Shaeffer  teams up  with Jonathan St. Clair and the Stick and Move Youth Crew to host this  all-ages event at the Hyde Park Free Theater, the newest art space on Chicago’s South side. Enjoy some great music, an ice-cold shandy (or a lemonade) and the chance to learn how to breakdance through an interactive all-ages workshop. Whether you’re five or fifty-five, enjoy learning and teaching one another new moves followed by a performance by the Youth Crew. This event is open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5 per person, or whatever you can contribute.

Learn more about the group and the Summer Intensive Dance Camp at

Saturday, June 27th, 3-4pm
The Art of Doing it All (well, sort of...)

Printer’s Ball at Spudnik Press
1821 W. Hubbard, Suite 302, Chicago

Cultural ReProducers hosts a roundtable discussion with artists Christa Donner, Fred Sasaki, and Selina Trepp exploring creative strategies to manage the push and pull of cultural work, paying the bills, and parenthood. Presented in conjunction with the zine "Propositions, Manifestos, and Experiments," this conversation will be relevant to anyone working toward a more sustainable creative practice, non-parents included.

If you'll have kids along, let us know: we'll provide some simple art supplies to keep them busy during the conversation.

Now in its 11th year, Printers Ball is an annual celebration of literary culture and printmaking brings together printers, writers, publishers, artists, readers, collectors, students, teachers, makers, and consumers to embrace the push and pull that is integral to a dynamic community. The festival features live printmaking demonstrations, roundtable discussions, collaborative art-making projects, a marketplace, music, food, drinks and live performances.

To help keep Printers Ball accessible to artists and writers raising kids, space will be available throughout the day for nursing mothers and families who need to get away from the action for a bit.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Interview: Judith Brotman

Judith and Marcia Brotman, 2014
This Mother's Day we're putting a twist on the theme of artmaking and family life. Judith Brotman is not a parent herself. Since her mother's health issues took hold more than fifteen years ago, Judith has overseen her care on many levels. This deep and often challenging commitment has played a profound role in Judith's creative and career choices ever since.

Judith Brotman is an artist and educator from Chicago. Her work includes mixed media installations and theatrical immersive environments which occupy a space between sculpture and drawing. More recent work incorporates language/text-based conceptual projects which are also meditations on the possibility of transformation. She has exhibited extensively in Chicago & throughout the US, including exhibitions at Threewalls, Chicago Cultural Center, Hyde Park Art Center, Gallery 400, Illinois State Museum, The Bike Room, INOVA, the DeVos Art Museum, Hampshire College, The Smart Museum of Art, SOFA Chicago, The Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, & The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. We are honored to share this conversation with her here.

CR: First, tell us a little bit about your mother.

Judith: My mother’s name is Marcia Brotman.  She is 94 and lives in an assisted living facility.  She grew up in Brooklyn, and graduated as a Spanish major from Brooklyn College.  She worked as a translator in an export company until she married and moved to Chicago. My mother was the youngest of seven children, growing up in a family of very little means; her most prized possession was a complete set of Dickens bought for her when she was a teenager by one of her brothers. My mother is a tougher cookie than she ever admitted in her younger years; she’s also very smart and has an astonishing sense of humor. 

studio shot, work-in-progress, 2015
CR: How has your involvement in your mother's care impacted your career choices and your relationship to the art community?

Judith: Although I don’t have children, I suspect that there are parallels in barriers encountered by parents in the arts and by those of us caring for adult family members.  A great deal of what has troubled me has been attitude. I have been taking care of my mother for close to 16 years, and the first thing I want to mention is that the art community is considerably kinder and gentler than it once was.  There was a time when I felt that any mention of my taking care of my mother was not welcome in the conversation.  It was very painful, but also made me quite angry that I was expected to compartmentalize this portion of my life and separate it out from the rest.  I felt things starting to shift, and for the better, about five years ago.  I applaud Cultural ReProducers for all their efforts to educate the art community.  I think it’s the same “education”:  recognizing that artists’ lives are complex.  Since we tend to ruminate on life’s toughest questions, it seems obvious that we would be living full, complex, and complicated lives. 

CR: What has your process been like in negotiating a balance between studio practice, day job, and caring for your mother? How has this system evolved as her/your situations have changed?

Judith: Illness and issues of aging do not necessarily progress in a straight line; actually the opposite is true.  There have been times when my mother’s care has occupied virtually all of my time and other times where it has been much more manageable.  It’s been an enormous challenge that has required continual recalibration.  I have told myself that I can juggle studio, teaching, and caregiving, and I have.   However, I know there’s statistical evidence that being a caregiver for someone who is ill has a 50% increased mortality rate regardless of age.  The stress component isn’t small.   I’ve never missed a class, postponed an exhibition, or neglected my mother’s healthcare, but I’ve sometimes felt overwhelmed from juggling so many eggs.

'Golems, Flying Machines, and Transformations' (detail),  2012
CR: How has this ongoing relationship with your mother and institutional care shaped your approach to your studio practice, or the work itself?

My studio work has always been a reflection of my interest in relationships (typically complicated ones) and in how we come know another person.   This interest preceded being a caregiver for my mother.  My sculpture/installation work has never been a direct response to my time with her, but every once in a while I can sense the impact.  I had been a pre-med student before going to art school, and that interest (in things medical and in the body) had always been an influence.  I do believe that this fast forwarded since participating in my mother’s health care.  There were a couple of years during which I accompanied her to endless medical tests.  For a time, I looked more at medical imaging than at artwork.  I’ve been repeatedly awed by how fragile and resilient the human body, even an elderly one, can be; as a result, in the past decade my work seems to have grown increasingly more “fragile-but-still-standing.”   The use of stitching in my work, which has been present for many years, has taken on more and more of a surgical feel.  I doubt any of this is a coincidence although it was only in hindsight that I made these connections.
For the past two years, I’ve been taking pictures of my mother and me almost every time I visit.  Typically these are a reflection of us in her bureau mirror.  What started as a way to give us a shared activity has not only enriched our time together but has also turned into documentation of our relationship.  Claudine Isé and I are planning an exhibition around this work to be shown at Woman Made Gallery; this is predicated on funding to make it happen.   It has been a lovely discovery to realize that my studio interest in oddball love stories and moments of potential transformation are really at the heart of these images.

Untitled, (altered book page), 2014
CR: If you could imagine a fantasy scenario, what sorts of alternative structures might make that world more inclusive or supportive for artists who find themselves in a similar situation?

I think the ideal scenario here might be even more complicated than for parents in the arts.   The medical emergencies and crises come randomly and at any time of the day or night.  Compassion from others helps a lot.  I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate it when people ask me directly about how I and/or my mom are doing.  This happens far more now than in years past. On the other hand, much of the advice/commentary I’ve received has been extremely unwelcome.  This isn’t an art community complaint, it’s global.  I remember someone recommending I let my mother die when she was still very much alive, and I’ve also received my share of New Age commentary indicating that what I’m experiencing is a result of unaddressed childhood issues.  I’m hard pressed to say how unhelpful these (and other) comments have been during the most difficult times.

My fantasy scenario involves how the elderly are treated.  From the time my mother began to lose her hearing, long before she had dementia, she was no longer taken seriously.  At this point, virtually every change in her is assumed to be her dementia progressing.  As a result, I often feel as if I need to watch her closely as medical issues are often missed and overlooked.   I have also caught (what feels like) 1,039,038 medical mistakes in the past fifteen years--everything from pharmacy to physician to hospital errors.   Many of them have been serious in nature. It is a fact of life that people need advocates when they are elderly and/or require a great deal of medical care.  In my fantasy world, I could blink (often) and it wouldn’t matter.  As it stands, I can’t ever fall asleep at the job.

Marcia and Judith Brotman, circa 1960
I want to end with something that will likely be unexpected even (especially?) to my closest
friends.  These years of caregiving, admittedly very tough, have also impacted me in ways I wouldn’t change.  I committed to something I truly wanted to do, and I think our commitments are always life affirming.   Given a re-do opportunity, I would likely do most of what I’ve done all over again---give or take a tweak here and there.  I’ve heard many parents talk about a shift in world-view once they’ve had their first child.  I suspect it is, in part, related to putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. For me a greater sense of conviction, strength, and self-awareness have resulted.  I do not refer to self-sacrifice, but rather to a heartfelt commitment.  It certainly wasn’t why I’ve done this, but the internal changes have been a lovely (and unexpected) perk.  There have also been many astonishing conversations and shared experiences with my mother.  Admittedly some have been as tough as any I’ve ever encountered, but others have been filled with grace.  Even now, with my mother’s dementia fairly advanced, we share some incredibly intimate conversations.  At this point, we know each other so well that our conversations have the capacity to transcend all the perceived obstacles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A little Mother's Day Mothernism, anyone?

Sure, mothers appreciate flowers and breakfast in bed, but do you know any who'd also love the chance to get together with other talented mamas for a free, all-ages multimedia Mothernism event?

This Mother's Day from 5-7pm, Chicago's feminist book club TRACERS teams up with the Nightingale Cinema for an evening of Mothernism: readings, screenings, and performances by Emily Lansana, Lise Haller Baggesen, Christa Donner, Lori M. Barett, Selina Trepp, and Rebirth Youth Poetry Ensemble, featuring Maya Dru and Simone Allen.

This event kicks off a monthly media series WHATHAVEYOUDONEFORMELATELY?, organized by TRACERS + the Nightingale and featuring readings, scholars, films, moving pictures, music, meditation, performance, and lively discussion around topics of contemporary feminism. You can find them there every 2nd Sunday of the month from 5-7PM. 

Unless otherwise noted, these events are family friendly and FREE. The Nightingale Cinema is located at 1084 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

How to Be an Artist and a Parent: Boston weighs in.

We love the new Boston, Massachusetts group How to be an Artist and a Parent, not least because of the the down-to-earth response you'll find on their website: "Who knows? Lets figure it out." The project is run by multimedia artists, writers and fathers Greg Cook and Tim Devin, who also run the online forum Boston-area Creative Parents. This month they're connecting the community with two free panel discussions exploring creative work-life balance, one in Malden and another in Somerville. Know any artists near Boston who are working it out as parents? Please pass along the news. Here's more information on this month's events:

How to Be an Artist and a Parent?
Being a parent is pretty challenging. And raising a kid while trying to be an artist/writer/you-name-it can feel pretty overwhelming– especially when you throw in Boston’s insanely high cost of living. But we’re creative people. Maybe if we get together and talk and listen, we can find ways to support each other.

Malden Edition: Tuesday, May 12th, from 7 to 8:00pm. Three creative parents (Paige Wallis, James Montford and Stacy Thomas-Vickory) will share how they balance their lives, and then we'll discuss it all as a group. And hopefully find some solutions.

Somerville Edition: Saturday, May 30th, from 2 to 4:00pm. Three creative parents (Jef Czekaj, Jennifer Johnson and Trudi Cohen) will share how they balance their lives, and then we'll discuss it all as a group. And hopefully find some solutions.

These events are free and open to the public.