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On Thursday 8th June, I worked closely with Julie McCalden to research, present and facilitate a workshop as part of a-n Assembly Bristol (go to Proposal For A Guide For Art Parents for further information including a links to a PDF of my presentation). The session was devised to generate discussion about what a Guide for Art Parents could be. My preparation and subsequent conversations with the organisers and other Assembly participants, opened up my thinking about the visibility, agency and scope of people working in the arts who are also parents.

Image: Carrie Mae Weems, Photograph and text from 'The Family Pictures and Stories Series.

My previous blog entry Mother, explored how women can maintain a creative practice when they start a family. However the a-n Assembly session title focused on parents rather than mothers; this presented an opportunity to think more broadly about the implications of developing a practice whilst bringing up a family. My research uncovered a plethora of creative projects located in the immediate and relentless early years of motherhood. However, I found it very difficult to find artist led activity focusing on the experience of fathers, and very little material about how starting a family can affect men working in the arts. I also found it difficult to uncover anecdotal experiences, that were specific to a wider range of other arts practitioners including; curators, project managers, producers, designers, lecturers, film makers and educators, who are also parents.

Image: Charles Darwin and his Eldest Son

It is important to acknowledge that like arts practitioners, caring comes in many forms. For example: at present, I am caring for my six and four years olds, whilst managing care for my elderly parents. Everyone’s challenges are utterly unique. There is no one solution. We need to permeate our culture with a multitude of different responsive and flexible models for developing a career, alongside caring for ourselves and our families.

Image: Julian Hughes

My recommendation for a Guide for Art Parents is to create an evolving online appendix/archive/resource, which includes:

  • projects and practices that are situated in or grow out of parenthood, family life or motherhood.

  • links to other relevant archives

  • interviews with a diverse range of practitioners (both established and emerging), that explore their challenges, survival strategies and reflections about living and working as parents, at different points or phases in their family life

  • studies of historical practices including Charles Darwin in the 1800’s, to second wave feminist activism

  • projects, opportunities and activism that support practitioners who are parents, including national campaigns, family friendly residencies and flexible working schemes.

  • search categories could include birth, early years, children, teenagers, collaborative family practices, motherhood, fatherhood, queer parents, single parents, artist led and so on.

Go to Proposal For A Guide For Art Parents to download my presentation and workshop plan. Please find below links related to my presentation:

Phyllida Barlow interviewed by Lyn Barber: discussing sharing the responsibilities of parenthood with her partner, Fabian Peake (8.16 – 11.07mins), discussing her affinity with Charles Darwin’s diaries exploring family life (27.12mins)

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