Friday, September 13, 2019

Publications: Art Fair Adventure Book

Art Fair Adventure Book
Published in Chicago by Cultural ReProducers 2019
5.5" x 8.5", 11 pages

 It's Art Fair season, and we have just the thing to your keep school-age kids from getting bored while you chat with fellow art folks: our Art Fair Adventure Book. Drawn and designed by Christa Donner, this little zine has eleven action-packed pages of risographed fun for ages 7 and up, featuring a multisensory scavenger hunt, fair fashion design, comics templates, people-watching games, art review-writing, and more.

$3 US plus shipping

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Events: Graham Foundation Series

Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, from Unraveling Modern Living, digital collage, 2019
Cultural ReProducers is excited to share a new series of events created in collaboration with the Graham Foundation this Fall, in conjunction with the exhibition Estudio Tatiana Bilbao: Unraveling Modern Living. The Mexico-City based architecture office transforms the former domestic space of the Graham Foundation's historic Madlener House to explore new forms of collectivity. CR and other groups will activate and intervene in these spaces throughout the season.


Alberto Aguilar, "Portal Court" (detail), sidewalk chalk, bean bags, rubber
balls, and public participation, 2019
Portal Court, by Alberto Aguilar
Sunday, September 15, 2019
1:00pm
Graham Foundation, 4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610
To join us, RSVP HERE

Using pavement, chalk, bouncy balls, and bean bags, artist Alberto Aguilar transforms the sidewalks surrounding the Graham Foundation's Madlener House and its interior courtyard into a floor game court and participatory performance. This event is designed as an outdoor program for children and families, but participants of every age are invited to join in.

Alberto Aguilar is a Chicago based artist. He has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit; El Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, Havana, Cuba; Palo Alto Art Center; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Minneapolis Institute of Art: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; and The Art Institute of Chicago. His work is held in the collections of the National Museum of Mexican Art; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Soho House Chicago; and the Chicago Cultural Center. Aguilar is the recipient of the 3Arts Award.


Cultural ReProducers, Making it What We Need at Glass Curtain Gallery, 2014

Making it What We Need
Christa Donner
Saturday, October 12th, 2019
9:30am - noon

Graham Foundation
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610

Help create the creative community you'd like to be a part of - in conversation with curators, artists, arts administrators, and others. Making it What We Need is a generative workshop considering alternate models for living, making, and making a living as artists, led by Cultural ReProducers organizer Christa Donner. Non-parents are welcome to join the conversation, which will be relevant to anyone working toward a sustainable life in the arts. Free, on-site childcare will be available through pre-registration. Space at this event is limited (RSVP link available soon).

Christa Donner is an artist, curator, and mother who incorporates drawing, participatory performance, and small-press publications to create multi-layered projects that are both intimate and community-centered. Donner’s work is exhibited widely, including projects for the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin, Germany), BankArt NYK (Yokohama, Japan); Chiaki Kamikawa Contemporary Art (Paphos, Cyprus); the Museum Bellerive (Zurich, Switzerland), and throughout the United States. In 2012 Donner helped launch the collaborative platform Cultural ReProducers, providing skillsharing, critical dialogue, participatory events, and an international community supporting the dual work of artists raising children.

TBA
Hui-Min Tsen
December, 2019

Graham Foundation
4 West Burton Place
Chicago, Illinois 60610

Artist Hui-Min Tsen creates an intergenerational walking tour through history and architecture. It's going to be so good. More details coming soon!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Interview: Angela James

Singer-songwriter Angela James moves fluidly and collaboratively between the genres of alt country, improvised music, and indie rock. The Chicago Reader called her 2016 album, Time Will Tell, “smoldering and gorgeous.”

When Angela found herself struggling with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, she turned to her music as an anchor.  Now she’s using it to celebrate and support artist-parents. Her forthcoming album, Quiet Night, is a collection of lullabies that evolved through the difficult days of early motherhood. As the songs became an album, Angela made a commitment to work exclusively with fellow parents on the project, from the instrumentalists and the sound producer to the publicist and the album artwork. 

Quiet Night debuts April 12th with a 3pm all-ages show on April 20th at the Hideout, the Chicago institution where the project got its start. If you’re in Chicago, bring your family! Cultural ReProducers sat down with Angela over hot mugs of tea to find out more about this labor of love.


Cultural ReProducers: Finding time for creative work as a new parent can be… complicated. How did you return to music after becoming a mother?

Angela James: After Hattie was born I did this month-long residency at the Hideout. I’d scheduled the residency before I had her, because I was like, “if I’m not back making music and performing when she’s nine months old, then I’m not relevant anymore.” (laughter) I put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to reconnect.

The residency basically meant that I had to perform every Tuesday for a month, put together a bill every week. It’s an opportunity to do new material, which would be one thing if I just decided to play one show, but I was like “I’m gonna play a show every week!” These are the ideas you have when you don’t have a child yet. The first show of that residency was called Women of the World Take Over, with 18 different female performers each covering a different Chicago female performer. I got sick in the middle of it and lost my voice, and there were all kinds of things that happened. It was so much work. It was wonderful.

I had these melodies that I wrote while spending all these hours trying to get her to sleep. I was gonna go crazy otherwise. After the residency, I started making them into songs. I have no illusions that these melodies actually helped her sleep (laughter) - they were lullabies for me.

CR: That’s something I feel like people don’t talk about enough: that lullabies can be just as important to the parent as it is to the child being sung to. Singing creates this breathing and resonance that is so grounding for someone who’s exhausted and dealing with a baby that won’t go to sleep.
 

Angela: It’s also part of this whole arc of things. It’s what I’m going to play during a bedtime routine
at the end of the day, and the days are long. That’s also why I decided it would all be mid- to low-tone instruments, no percussion. The vibraphone and the bassoon, those are the instruments that just make me kind of … sit a little deeper. I can remember when I was first exposed to Peter and the Wolf as a child – the idea that instruments have their own personalities. It was huge for me. I’m a singer, but it gave me this internal sense that these things have voices just like I have a voice. The vibraphone just makes me feel… safe. There’s something about that bell-like chiming sound that is so soothing.

CR: You’ve made an intentional decision to work with fellow parents on every aspect of this album. How did that idea come about?

Angela: Well, I know some incredible musician parents in jazz or experimental new music. And then I was like, “Well, if I’m gonna have all the performers be parents, then …”

My friend Shelly usually does live sound, but she was a new mom and had just gotten a new job in broadcasting and asked me if I had a project that was fairly simple that she could record.  And I was like “Well yes, actually, I do.” And then I decided that whoever mixes it has to be a parent, and whoever does the artwork has to be a parent. And the mastering engineer. And now the publicist, she’s also a parent.

It’s been a great opportunity to observe and honor what people are able to accomplish while raising young children. Most of our kids are preschool-age. I feel like everybody’s just trying to hold on, to maintain some kind of creative practice. And at the same time - I know in my case - that creative work keeps getting better. There have been some interesting articles about this in the past few years, whether it’s time-management, or because your world view has gotten more expansive because your love is… exploding, but you also have to focus. There is something better about my work, now. And it’s cool to see that in everybody that’s involved in the project in different ways. These people’s careers are blossoming at the same time that they’re raising a newborn. That’s so inspiring to me.

CR:  You’re open about your struggle with postpartum depression. How did that experience intersect with your work and your identity as a creative professional?

Angela: “Quiet Night” came out of this really emotionally fraught time. I think it is for everybody! Even if you have a great breastfeeding experience, or your child sleeps through the night at two weeks old, which is … impossible (laughter) but some people do have really chill postpartum newborn situations. Even then, it’s still kind of crazy. As an artist I just put all this extra pressure on myself, which was another layer to my postpartum depression. I thought, “I’ll never make art again. This is just the way it’s always gonna be. This is the child I have made.” You can’t see anything else.

I feel like everybody’s just trying to hold on, to maintain some kind of creative practice. And at the same time that creative work keeps getting better.

I remember having a panic attack – [my partner] Jordan was curating at Elastic at the time, and he had to go to an art opening. We lived a couple of blocks away, but I was panicking at the thought of being home alone with Hattie. She was two weeks old at the time. I thought that was just the way people feel. It took another week of that to realize that I was suffering. We don’t realize it’s a problem because there’s not a visible support structure for that. I went in for a checkup and my doctor said, “I don’t want to offend you, but you’re not okay.” And I was like, “No offense taken. You are correct.” She connected me with a therapist who specializes in postpartum depression, so I was able to address it with talk therapy and medication. Those feelings were a huge part of this project. The more I listen to the songs on this album, the more I think that maybe they’re really for me. That they will be soothing for parents that are going through this difficult and all-consuming time.

CR: I love that idea of using music as a way of caring for people who are going through something you went through.

Angela: I didn’t set out to do that, I guess few people actually do – but the lyrics of one of the songs is like, “I don’t know what you need, I don’t know what to do, I don’t see what you see, I can’t go everywhere with you… but I love you. The most.” I think the desperation is evident in that song

CR: It’s interesting because I don’t find that edge in most of the songs. Even knowing what you went through in the process of making it, the music itself is incredibly soothing.
 

Angela: Right, well there’s one other song that’s like, “we’re both really tired. Just, please go to sleep.” But everything else is just about love. That’s the real thesis statement. I didn’t write the lyrics when there was that edge. She was finally sleeping and I was finally starting to come out of it. I hear these mythological tales of artists who can create while they’re in a horrible spot in life… I had a very difficult decade in my 20s with lots of experience that could be material to write about, but there’s no way I could have written music and lyrics when I felt that way.

CR: How would you say this is album is a departure from your previous work?

Angela: Well, it’s all me. This is the first project that I’ve done musically without Jordan. That’s a new layer that I’m still processing now, the fact that Jordan doesn’t play on it. A lot of it is logistical: he has to be home with her while I’m doing these recordings. We’re not gonna pay for a babysitter. He wrote one song, but he’s not involved in the recording. I got a DCASE Grant to manufacture it, and I just received word yesterday that I got an Illinois Arts Council Grant to pay for the PR.

CR: Congratulations!

Angela: Thank you. I’m super excited about the publicist I’m working with. She specifically does kids music. I’ve never worked with a publicist before. Usually the people who need publicists the most don’t have them, because the good ones are very expensive. If I hadn’t gotten this grant, I don’t know if I could do this. I am committed to talking about postpartum depression in an open way, and this album is a vehicle for me to do that. It’s an experience that so many women have, but we’re not encouraged to talk about it. I think that’s important.


CR: Your daughter is two years old now. How has the reality of making music while parenting measured up to your expectations pre-motherhood?
 

Angela: All babies are different. Early on I had this idea that, you know, we’ll all go to shows… I’ll wear her, and she’ll wear those ear protector things. But that’s not the child I was blessed with. I have a child that likes to be in her own bed at 7pm, and then a 45-minute interval of alone time where she chats and sings. And if you don’t give her that time by herself she’s very cranky and won’t sleep. I respect that about her. She’s not shy or introverted, but she has a sense of self-awareness out of the gate that I really admire. It took me until I was in my 30s to learn how to create some boundaries for myself! (laughter) I choose to honor that this is how she feels about these things. She doesn’t like snow, which I’m disappointed about… but you know, she doesn’t have to like snow just because I do. She matches pitch really well. I’m constantly navigating my own pressures and expectations as a mother, but also of my child. To let her be who she is.

Sometimes I feel a lot of mom guilt, because any spare time I have, I’m just trying to maintain a creative practice in my own home. I have this career that really doesn’t pay me anything, and it’s separate from childcare, it’s just… extra. It’s desire, it’s pressure, it’s all of these things – but I need it to feel okay about myself.  That realization actually made me feel better. She doesn’t need to go to dance class, she’s two! She can dance any time she wants. We all live in a building together with my mother-, father-, and sister-in-law. My mother-in-law was a concert pianist, and there’s a baby grand piano in their apartment. Hattie has a pretty decent form just from watching her grandmother. The piano’s got weighted keys - it’s not this miniaturized kid keyboard - it’s the real thing. And that’s her normal. I just want my daughter to observe her parents as artists, and see that that’s possible.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

What Artist Residencies Can Do For Artist Parents - And What Artist Parents Can Do for Artist Residencies

An ad-hoc group of artists, artist residencies, and funders is working together to spread the idea of parent-friendly residencies beyond the pioneering group of residencies that currently offer space for families.

A little background: In the summer of 2017, Eve Biddle and Will Hutnick of The Wassaic Project talked with Travis Laughlin, then of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, about the challenges of supporting artist parents. That conversation led to a larger gathering at The Wassaic Project, with leaders from Artists U, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Marble House Project, the Millay Colony, Sustainable Arts Foundation, and Wassaic.

In 2014, Artists U did a project called Artists Raising Kids: a national survey, in-depth interviews, and gatherings in Philadelphia and Baltimore. As a result, I have a lot of artist parents in my network. So before the meeting at Wassaic, I surveyed 300 artist parents about artist residencies: What are the barriers?

The top two barriers were not surprising: accommodations for children, and childcare or money for childcare. Those are real needs, and addressing them takes significant resources. But the third and fourth most common barriers were: duration of residencies, and lack of scheduling flexibility. I was struck that addressing these barriers, while they require some administrative work, do not cost a lot in dollars. How many more artist parents could do a residency if they could choose the duration and start date? How many artist residencies might be willing to take this smaller step and become more parent friendly?

Here is one output from our conversations at Wassaic. We outlined a “spectrum of support” that
residencies can offer artist parents. Family-friendly residencies, with accommodations and childcare for children, are amazing, of course. But we also highlight other, smaller steps residencies can take. We hope the entire residency sector can make some of these smaller, simpler changes to open up possibilities for artist parents.

On the flip side of the poster, we offer ways artist parents can help problem-solve these challenges. In Artists U, we don’t start with our needs; we start with our skills.

Please share this poster with artists and residencies. And if you have thoughts or ideas about it, get in touch.

andrew simonet
artist
founder, Artists U