Mothers in Arts Residency (MA Residency) is a studio space combined with a communal day care. The Residency is specialized in supporting emerging women artists, who are also mothers. Mothers in Arts is free of charge; the artists agree on take turns to work and look after each others children around an organized work schedule. The Residency gives new mothers an opportunity to continue their artistic development.
Mothers in Arts currently does not have an open call for an upcoming residency, but we are doing our best to continue the project.
The trial Residency took place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands between March and May 2017 and was finished with its final exhibition, called Re: Production.
The residency is an experimental model that can be applied by anyone regardless of geographical location. We would like to encourage everyone to support similar initiatives in their area, and even better, to start their
own. The only thing you need is a couple of dedicated woman artists & their children, an artist studio and suitable place - for example one of the artist’s home - for the communal daycare.
Of course, it is not as simple as it sounds.
During the trial residency we have found, that there are several unexpected situations - mostly regarding the children - that should be addressed in order to help the ones willing to start their own Residency.
Therefore Mothers in Arts shares the experiences and provides a free Residency Model.
It is essential that the children feel comfortable; while the artists are using the given time for art production, their children are put into a foreign situation, which can be scary. Therefore intensive cooperation between the mothers is required during the Residency. In our case we set up a chat group where mothers shared updates troughout the day and gave each other feedback if needed.
We do have to admit, that our case was not the most simple one: we had 4 artists, speaking in 4 different languages - Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish and Hungarian - to their children while we used English as the common language in the daycare and to communicate with each other. One of the artists had travelled from Brazil to the Netherlands, becoming a single mother for the duration of the project. This shift is physically and mentally challenging, both for the parent and the child. The 4 children were between 6 months and 2 years old: all in different stages of social development. Some of the children were extremely attached to their parents - have never been left with someone else before - so it wasn't easy to leave them in the communal daycare.
Our original schedule was divided into complete days where a shift consisting of 2 artits and 2 mothers would work in the studio and take care of the children respectively, but soon we had to realise that it would be easier on the children if we divided the days into two parts. 2 of the artists took care of the children during the morning - while the other 2 were working in the studio - and they would switch for the afternoon.
Slowly the children started to get used to the idea of being with other mothers, until an unexpected situation arose: one of the them was infected with chicken pox. Not all the artists felt comfortable with the idea of their children being exposed to the virus so we had to shut down the daycare for almost 2 weeks. This of course was a huge step back in the children’s development and in the parents’ working flow as well.
At the end, the adaptation of the children took about 4 to 6 weeks - on an average of being 4 days a week in the daycare - , which was basically the half of the residency’s period.
By the time all parents and children felt comfortable being separated from each other we were almost at the final exhibition.
Different cultures, different mentalities, different visions of parenting
When Mothers in Arts published the open call for the Residency the response to the project was more than unexpected. Being an unknown, small initiative, Mothers in Arts was originally planned to welcome domestic artists only. As most of the applications came from outside the Netherlands and the fact that we have found an artist run space - Goleb - to host us providing accommodation, we were able to invite an international artist as well.
All the applications were strong and moving and through their amount we realised the importance of the project. For the trial Residency 3 domestic artists - including Csilla Klenyanszki, the founder - and one international artist were selected. 4 women artists with different backgrounds were unified through their commitment to art and their new role as mothers. Without this commitment the project couldn’t have succeeded.
The most important thing that the participants have to understand is that the daycare is the heart of the project. Everyone has a strong, subjective view on parenting which can cause conflicts so - if it’s possible - it is highly recommended to involve a professional caregiver, who can be the head of the daycare. This makes the roles of the participants more clear and also gives more flexibility to the mothers. Not to mention that if one of the artists (or their children) is temporarly absent - by being sick for instance - an extra person comes really handy (in the daycare).
The trial Residency - due to our limited resources - did not offer a professional caregiver and it would be inaccurate to state that 3 months went by without any issues or arguments what so ever. We all felt at some point that we were not gonna be able to pull off the project, but at the end we made it work.
It is crucial that the participants can work together and support each other. A special sympathy is essential. If the participants cooperate - besides being able to work again as a reward - they also find people they can truly trust.
About the artistic process there is not much to say; all artist knows the way they work the best. In this case a properly working daycare is the base for the participants to be able to concentrate on their own art production, which at the end is the final goal.
In the Residency - after the adaptation time - everyone was able to work extremely hard on their individual projects so we were able finish the residency with the planned final exhibition, Re: Production.
The trial Residency took place in Amsterdam West on two locations
Two ateliers were provided for the artists at Artist-Run Space Goleb, which is a former school building turned art space. A guest studio was provided for the international artist at the same place. The guest studio contains the basics; a bed, table, chairs, kitchenette. Mothers in Arts provided a baby bed, a high chair cleaning and tableware products for the child as well as toys. The communal toilet and shower was shared with the other Goleb artists.
The daycare was situated at our home; a cozy 1950’s family house with a small garden, where children could play. The indoor playing area was located in the living room, while the sleeping rooms were located at the first floor in 3 bedrooms, providing a quite area for the children.
The daycare and the studios were within 2 minutes walking distance from each other. That meant that the artists could easily move between the two locations, and the whole group - including children and parents - could have lunch together.
The choice for the daycare to be situated in our home was a practical and economical decision; the home was already baby-proof including all the essentials a child might need. We have added 3 extra baby beds (foldable beds) inclusive sleeping bags as well as 3 extra highchairs. However at the end only one child slept in the baby bed, while the others were sleeping on our beds.
One of the artists’ home - a homey environment - works well as a daycare for child and parent but it also has some disadvantages; in our case my son was the one, who got chicken pox, which meant that for the duration of his sickness being contagious (1 to 2 weeks) the daycare was closed. Luckily the other artists have offered to relocate the daycare temporarily into one of the ateliers, which worked for a short period, but of course that was not the most ideal environment for the children. (The two domestic artists were living on the other side of the city so putting the daycare to their homes - temporarily - was not an option). It is also important to realise that by having the daycare in our home we gave up our private space for the duration of the project, which we happily did, but it also meant that the place had to be ready - cleaned, organised, stuffed with food and diapers - for the children at all time.
Mothers in Arts intention was (and still is) to offer the Residency free of charge awarded trough a selection process.
The reasons for creating a fully funded artist in residency are:
In our case, the trial Residency was fully funded from the Stipendium Program for Emerging Artist (Werkbijdrage Jong Talent), awarded by the Mondriaan Foundation, based in the Netherlands. This grant is awarded to individual artists to “to stimulate their artistic development and cultural entrepreneurship so as to help them create work that makes a meaningful contribution to contemporary Dutch visual art.”
Mothers in Arts provided the guest studio for the international artist as well the other atelier for the domestic artists. The daycare inclusive food and diapers for the children was free as well.
In general, running the residency involved 2 types of costs:
Even though the studios provided by Goleb were relatively cheap compered to Amsterdam standards, Mothers in Arts spent most of its budget on its fixed costs: namely rent and supplies. The rent which in our case - inclusive events and the final exhibition - was €2,375 for 3 months. The costs of the daycare - inclusive beds, sleeping bags, chairs, food, diapers, toys and an unexpected electricity bill - was €1,000.
There were about €500 of variable costs which went on the events, studio visits, advertising and the final exhibition. The Mothers in Arts documentary was €605.
The final combined cost of making the 3 months project was €4,480.
On a personal note, I feel lucky that we have found Goleb; an artist space nearby, which made it possible to use our home as the daycare while using their studios as the ateliers. Without Goleb the cost of the rent could have been easily twice as much, making it impossible to realize the project.