Parenting: Artists join forces with motherly concerns
Being an artist can be difficult, but being an artist and a mother creates extra challenges
“A six o’clock opening is just never going to happen if you have children to feed,” Hassett points out.
Most arts practice requires a combination of self-guided studio time and work on commissions, which can be something as concrete as a sculpture or as fluid as the giving of a workshop.
Those present at the meeting say they struggle with common perceptions that studio time is something of an indulgence and the real work is what you get paid directly for. It is a pressure that is always there for artists.
“You’re told in art school you are going to live in poverty and that becomes kind of acceptable,” O’Sullivan says. However, “as soon as you have dependents, it’s not just you but your child’s future that you have to think about”.
There is general agreement in the room that artists have no choice but to prioritise what pays. As Browne puts it, “How do you justify spending money on a studio or childcare if you aren’t earning from your practice?”.
The issue of maternity leave is also controversial for the artists: many of them are not entitled to any social welfare support, and others feeling it is unrealistic to take six to nine months off work, because “people tend to write you off when you have a child, and make assumptions that you are not available, so you need to make sure that you remain visible”, Browne says.
The aim of the Mothership Project is not “just to have a good moan”, as Browne puts it, though there is certainly something therapeutic in finding shared experience among your professional peers.
Its real purpose is to find out whether there is anything that can be done about shared problems.
After the last meeting, for example, which focused on the isolation of working at home, the group resolved to establish a collective called AtHomeStudios – a group of parenting visual artists working from home studios in Dublin. The idea was to encourage visibility and provide support for those working in individual domestic settings.
The resolutions resulting from the Time and Money meeting include a plan to lobby arts organisations to be explicit about family-friendly residencies and resources, and to research the idea of a Time Bank for sharing childcare.
But meetings are just one element of the Mothership Project, which runs a blog with invaluable links to international research in the area of art and parenthood.
“One of the big things you confront as a mother, I think,” Browne says, “is a certain feeling of isolation”. The Mothership Project is providing much-needed connections for artist-parents.
For more information, see themothershipproject.wordpress.com