How can I apply to be an Artist-in-residence-in-Motherhood?
You don't have to apply! Anyone who is an artist and a parent can set up their own Artist-in-Residence-in-Motherhood (or Fatherhood). Read more here. Artist/parents can add to, simplify or adapt the structure anyway they choose to suit their own particular situation. If you need them, a planning tool and other downloadable materials are available to download for free, here.
Are you a non-profit? Who funds this?
I am an individual, independent artist; Lenka Clayton. I invented An Artist Residency in Motherhood as a personal framework to help me cope with and find inspiration (and sanity) in the transitions of early parenthood. It helped me so much, and there was such a demand from others that I decided to open it up to anyone to take part in. My dream is that it is interpreted in a thousand variations by artist/parents around the world. When that happens I will make a beautiful map so that residents will be able to see who else is currently in-residence and perhaps even collaborate.
This is currently an unfunded project. If you would like to support artist/parents please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or consider donating to the Red Thread grant.
Why not An Artist Residency in Fatherhood???
This is a personal project that grew out of a reality I experienced as a 38-year old British white woman living in the US. The specific imbalances I encountered within the art world, and the world at large very specifically applied to women. If you are a father for whom this project resonates please feel free to adapt and take part. I'd love to hear from you.
Cultural Reproducers: Who have been your role models for artist-parenting / parent-artisting?
"I think the lack of role models that I found while I was pregnant and home with young kids (still) is what created An Artist Residency in Motherhood, and especially projects within it such as Mother’s Days. That project, a collection of one hundred accounts of everyday life by one hundred mothers around the world, came from a real sense of isolation I was feeling, and a realization that the things I wanted to talk about or hear about weren’t what I was hearing other people talking about. I am interested in the tiny details, the routines, the furious love and surprising rage, the poetry of time with people learning to talk, and the monologues that adults alone with kids narrate to themselves all day long. One of the women who took part in Mother’s Days describes googling “Husband doesn’t share nighttime baby." Another googled “benefits of working moms vs. stay at home moms." It is beautiful to me to know this. I am interested in the questions, confusion and poetry around parenting and working as an artist. I found lots of answers to things but relate to the uncertainty more and didn’t come across role models for that."
Cultural Reproducers: How did you decide to undertake a “Residency in Motherhood?” Did it develop entirely out of the postpartum experience, or was it percolating before that?
"An Artist Residency in Motherhood is the second project I’ve made that takes questions and conflicts I experienced around parenting and working as an artist and uses them as a structure to work within. The first, Maternity Leave, started before Otto was born and was carried out when he was between 2 and 5 months old. It consisted of a live audio feed from a microphone placed above his cot that was transmitted directly into the Carnegie Museum and broadcast in an empty gallery, via a white plastic baby-monitor. For the duration of the exhibition the museum publicly paid me the weekly equivalent of the government benefit the “Maternity Allowance” that freelance artist parents receive in England, where I’m from.
The idea for An Artist Residency in Motherhood developed out of this project. It started when Otto was one and I was pregnant with Early but didn’t know yet. It took a while for the idea to fully reveal itself, then a while longer to secure the funding (from The Pittsburgh Foundation and the Sustainable Art Foundation) that I needed both to buy myself the time and resources to carry it out as well as to “legitimize” the project as a real residency."
Maternity Leave / baby monitor, live audio stream, baby / 2011 / Carnegie Museum of Art / curated by Dan Byers
Cultural Reproducers: You note in your artist’s statement something that resonates with most of us: “I find now that many aspects of the professional art world are closed to artists with families.” What changes or alternative structures would you most like to see in the art world?
"I would like that young women absolutely committed to developing their careers as artists who also want kids to not feel like they had to choose between being a serious, engaged artist and being a (serious, engaged!) parent. For that decision to not even occur to them, as it hasn’t for so many generations of young men. Whatever structures, role-models, and cultural shifts that it takes to make that occur."
Cultural Reproducers: Any strategies or advice you’d pass on to new parents struggling to maintain a creative practice while raising a family?
"There is so much advice, that is one of the problems. How you choose to or are able to navigate babyland and keep a studio practice going has so much to do with personal circumstances.
Some of my tricks are – to try to have a feeling of things going on in the world when I’m unable to be in the studio. In my studio time on a Sunday I order materials, or write up an idea, or post new work online, or apply for an opportunity. Over the week when I’m with the kids I daydream about these things going on behind the scenes. I meet one dear artist friend every week to check in about our art progress which helps me focus on the things I’ve done, and not all the millions of things I haven’t. I try to write a little every few days to capture thoughts that are otherwise lost in a sleep-deprived haze. I let a lot of things be unfinished, or uncertain. I have a lot of projects in my "to do one day" file.
In moments of despair and having no time at all, when I can’t remember what I’m doing or why, I like to think of the millions of other mothers covered in sick all around the world at the exact same moment too. Read Mother’s Days! That helps, I promise. And of course, remember Kurt Vonnegut’s famous phrase “and this too shall pass”. I had a rubber stamp made with that written on, for those kind of moments."
Creative Non-Fiction Magazine: What is your creative process like?
"I have two pre-school aged kids, so I've become quite structured about things. In any bits of free time in the week I do studio administration, meet people, collect material and work on commissions. On Sunday I have a studio day and try to save that as a time to play around and/or make new work. I try to also have an ongoing project that I can pick up easily and do a little each day, like the Typewriter Drawings series.
Generally speaking, I find ideas and creative direction by paying careful attention to things around me in my everyday life. Sometimes I do this by writing or meditating. Another excellent, highly recommended way is shopping. I go to thrift stores, flea markets, or estate sales several times a week, and visit an amazing store in Pittsburgh called the Center for Creative Reuse, where I go shopping for ideas. Handling and collecting found objects is a very fruitful way for me to think. I keep them in my studio for a while until I understand what I should do with them. If nothing shows up I eventually take them back to the thrift store.
I also find inspiration from playing with my kids, picking things up off the street, reading and visiting museums of all kinds, talks, classes and so on. I write ideas that turn up on little scraps of paper that end up scattered all over everywhere. Eventually I'll write the same idea enough times that I have to make it.
In an alternative life I'd also walk for hours, write a diary each day and draw people in the streets, but I don't actually do those things in real life."
Creative Non-Fiction Magazine: How do you approach obstruction as an artist?
"I have come to realize that obstruction is one of my main working materials. I'm drawn to ideas that seem impossible, or at least too difficult to bother trying to do. For example; hand-numbering 7,000 stones, finding the 630 people mentioned by name in a single edition of a newspaper, or writing and sending a hand-written letter to every household in the world. As there is no clear reason for undertaking such tasks, I've found this creates a vast unexplored space to work in. Recently I was talking to my brother, an incredibly gifted computer programmer. He described most of his work as being the attempt to create more and more efficient methods to complete tasks. I realized that much of my process is working in the exact opposite direction, examining inefficiency and the value of labor applied to ephemeral or impossible tasks. It perhaps goes without saying that he is more financially stable than I am (joke). (True)."
An Artist Residency in Motherhood, is entirely structured around the idea of reframing obstruction. It considers aspects of parenthood usually seen as obstructions to artistic practice (scarcity of time, lack of resources, nap-length studio time, anxiety, etc.) and reframes them instead as material to make artwork out of."