"Thank You" from MOTHRA

There are as many approaches to being an artist, as there are to being a parent. These things are – to borrow from Sheila Kitzinger – cultural. Admitting to this acknowledges that there is no one path to take as an artist who is also a parent. There is no one set of questions relevant to all mother-artists. Some artist-parents do not want their children around when they work, while others want to work with their children; some artist-parents are not women; and some artists “outsource” their childrens’ care while others see care-work as intrinsic to everything they do as a parent and as an artist. “The Art World’s” gatekeepers, on whose judgement we rely for opportunity and funding, are also often women, and many are mothers. These are several of the many elephants in the room when we talk about art and mothering, and art and parenting.

Since 2012 I have convened a project for artist-parents with their children. As a collective, we began as artist-parents-in-residence at the Pitt River’s Museum, at the University of Oxford. This project, now called MOTHRA, currently runs international artist residencies at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Menecing (also known as Toronto Island).

MOTHRA makes an art world that is inclusive of the relationships of parent, child, artist, and partner. For some artists the separation of these relationships is necessary and desirable. The type of art that they want to make and who they want to make it for, an artist’s parenting style, and an artist’s politics, determine the solutions to the challenges of being an artist and a parent. Outsourcing childcare and uninterrupted studio time is a solution for some artists. MOTHRA is different.

MOTHRA attends to the divisions between parent and child, life and work, artist and partner, artist and parent, family and community. MOTHRA asks: What kind of artwork is made in these circumstances? How does art change when it works to erase these divisions? How is art transformed when it embraces parenthood, motherhood, and enters into a long term engagement, dialogue, and relationship with them?

I want the children and babies who have taken part in MOTHRA to know that they were not there to merely tag along. The children are a valued and integral part of the project. They may never make art with their parents again, but I want them to know that they were involved in and part of the creation of an art world. An art world that can exist anytime we want it to. We just have to make it happen.

Thanks to: Vita, Kit, Misi, Zoli, Olivia, Marcos, Emma, Oskar, Frieda, Ruben, Madlen, Oliver, Leo, Jaan-Ali, Rosey, Effie, Theo, Mainie, Anouk, Adaire, Bruce, Penny, Sammy, Rudi, Levi, Asa, Ronin, Nyles, Aven, Stellan, Everett, Ingvar, Augi, Nuala, Tilly, Ben, Lucas, Fiona, Rae, Quinn, Keir, Pippa, Helena, Sloan, Colton, Mae Mae, Felix, Clyde, Lilian, Juliette, Elowen, Aleks, Pippa, Nellie, Mandy, Maggie, Meadow, Blythe, Tillie, Octavia, Olive, Lili, Finley, Beatrice, Ellie, Saoirse, Ada, Dylan, Bowen, and the many other children who made it happen.

Special thanks to Alison Thompson.

Sarah Cullen 2022

Creative Commons Licence: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)