Being a parent comes with a seemingly endless list of incredibly unique feelings and experiences. Take, for example, the powerful opportunity to teach someone love and compassion. Then, there’s the way your kids think of you as their whole world, the remarkable bond you get to build together, and the beauty of seeing the wonder of the world through a child’s eyes.
Parenting also comes with its set of challenges. From the sleepless nights to the overwhelming fear that you’re doing something wrong, motherhood is no walk in the park. The motherhood-career juggle is an especially emotive topic, as women feel the pressure to be ‘perfect’ mothers while maintaining their professional independence. The pressure that female artists in particular feel is immense, for the conventional narrative in the art world is that women have a binary choice: choose art, or choose children.
This idea that women who decide to have children can say goodbye to their artistic careers is propped up by some child-free female artists themselves. Marina Abramović recently made headlines by telling Der Tagesspiegel that, “in my opinion having children is the reason why women aren’t as successful as men in the art world. There are plenty of talented women. Why do men take over the important positions? It’s simple. Love, family, children—a woman doesn’t want to sacrifice all of that.”
Take a look at artist residencies, for example. Artist residencies are an excellent way to meet other artists, writers, and curators. They help artists to have time and space for reflection, develop new ideas, experiment, and produce new works in a new environment. As a result, the experience of taking part in a residency can help further your career. However, residencies are predicated on the idea that an artist can pack up and leave their life at home for months or even a year — which is, obviously, an unrealistic expectation for a parent.
That’s why today, we want to highlight five art residencies that are committed to including parents and offering support to mothers.
1. The Parenting Artist Residency —Wexford, Ireland
Building on Satellite, the very successful pilot residency run in collaboration with The Mothership Project, Cow House Studios, with the support of Wexford County Council offers an annual two-week residency designed specifically for parenting artists. The Parenting Artist Residency will make it possible for awarded artists to dedicate time to their work because it recognises that many artists discover they must drop or drastically curtail their creative practice while having children. This residency supports parenting artists at this key stage in their lives, assisting them to have productive and rewarding careers as they rear their families. This residency is designed specifically for parenting artists with dependants under 18 years of age; children as well as partners are welcome. Through an open call, this residency will make it possible for participating artists to develop new work, progress existing projects or get back to their practice after taking time out to have children. This residency offers childcare, a stipend of €500 and accommodation and meals.
2. The Wassaic Family Residency — Wassaic, New York
The year-round family residency offers artists the chance to live in a private home in Wassaic while participating fully in our artist residency program. They broadly define “family” as a group of more than one individual where there is an in-house, and dependent, caregiving relationship. The residency recognizes that artists who have caregiving relationships, as providers or recipients, often opt-out of peer community building for practical reasons, which is why The Wassaic Family Residency aims to provide family accommodations which increase access to their residency program. The Wassaic House Hotel, built in the 1850s by Noah Gridley of Noah Gridley and Son Ironworks, was a direct product of the railroad and functioned as a leisure location where upper class railroad passengers could rest, dine, and socialize.
3. The Luminary — St Louis, Missouri
The Luminary supports exceptional ideas and initiatives through fully funded residencies that provide dedicated time, considered collaborations and a supportive working environment. The program is open to all artists, curators and critics, but uniquely supports the research, development and presentation of work that utilizes innovative forms and unconventional structures such as alternative spaces and economies, publications and writing, archives, collaborations, artist-led projects and experimental institutional practices. Theie open calls are oriented around distinct sessions that engage thematic interests being explored elsewhere in the institution through exhibitions, publications, and extensive public programs. Thanks to the support of the Sustainable Arts Foundation, The Luminary will offer a dedicated residency for artists, critics and curators with children in 2022. While they are always supportive of proposals from artist parents, these select residencies will come with additional financial support, assistance with childcare, and a personalized environment for the unique needs of families.
4. Camargo Foundation — Cassis, France
The Camargo Foundation’s Core Program offers its residents $250 per week (€210) and houses them in a stunning location in the south of France, overlooking the Port de Cassis. Running eight-week residencies in the fall, with longer stays available in the spring (six, eight, or eleven weeks), food and travel are covered and children or partners can accompany the artist, thinker, or scholar who is chosen among the 18 yearly fellows. Spouses/adult partners and dependent minor children are welcome to accompany Fellows for short stays or for the duration of the residency. Accompanying children must be at least six years old upon arrival and enrolled in and attending school or organized activities outside the Camargo Foundation campus during the week. The Camargo Foundation staff will advise on enrolment in the local public schools.
5. The Mother House Studios — London, UK
The Mother House Studios is the first and only Artists Studio model with Integrated Childcare, where children are welcome into the workspace. Procreate Project is place of knowledge, representation, artistic production and experimentation.
The Mother House Studios offers a collaborative yet intimate space for artists to foster their creative practice whilst nurturing engaged parenting. To facilitate integration and exchange, the model creates two interconnected spaces: studio space for professional arts practice in the form of an open art studio with desks – children area, where a dedicated team facilitates in-house daily activities -a gallery space for exhibitions and public programme open to the community. Pilot schemes have successfully taken place in London and Stroud and we have received 100s of enquiries from people interested in replicating the model elsewhere. The Mother House has now found a possible venue in Deptford, to open the first long term Mother House and put in practice the invaluable outcomes of the previous projects.
It’s clear that artist parents face unique challenges. Children are too often seen as an impediment to artistic endeavours, but the truth is, mothers are simply lacking support. If the wider arts community follow the example of the residencies above by providing greater opportunities for parents, we will avoid the inconceivable costs of potentially losing the voice of mothers in the arts.