A short anecdote to start with: while preparing an application for a scholarship, a young artist*(1) mother of two kids, ponders about whether she should mention the birth of her children in the accompanying résumé or not. Inevitably her exhibition practice has been fragmentary over the past years – the kids would more than explain these gaps. The artist asks a befriended artist that has a kid herself for advice. After some consideration and having consulted another artist with a child, she advises her not to mention the kids in her vita – driven by the same fears that made the young mother think about the topic at all: it might be harder for an artist with children to be taken seriously. People most likely would not give her credit for living a dedicated and productive life as a full-fledged artist.
The described reservations about mother artists are also debated by author Larissa Kikol in the article „Frauen, wagt mehr Größenwahn“ (“Women, risk more megalomania”, Die ZEIT, 1 Sep. 2016): “As mentioned by gallery owners, collectors sometimes raise concerns during sales conversations whether a female artist might not keep up with the continual work in the future – after all, she still could have kids”.
And Taryn Simon, an American artist and mother of two children, remarks in an interview with the journalist Christoph Amend, that she does not want to talk about her family – women then immediately would get reduced on the mother role („Verhandlungsgesteck“ [“Trial arrangements”], Christoph Amend, ZEITmagazin No. 24/2016, 17 Jun. 2016).
Against all affirmations and in line with all surveys, having kids does impact a working woman’s work life in general and her further career in particular.
Having children as a female artist leads to a situation that makes the continuation of an artistic career almost impossible – presuming that the artist is not yet successful enough to cover her expenses by the earnings made in the arts (a rarely accomplished status, especially at her reproductive age from the mid-twenties to her early forties) and that the partner by her side is not able (and perhaps not willing) to support the family by himself. These conditions can basically be considered as standard.
Besides bringing home sufficient financial means, caring for the kids and finding time for a minimum of shared family life, the artist with children shall be briskly productive artistically and, in the evening, take part in beneficial networking activities, as well.
In spite of all child-care support, an artist that busy will spend only 5 to 20 hours a week in the studio. Assuming that the kids are healthy, the kindergarten not on strike, one’s own strength plays its part … Quite right that such a low pensum of studio work will not advance the oeuvre to a great extent, nor will it support one’s artistic self-conception or satisfy one’s urge to work.
Of course, life is no walk in the park and there is a price for everything – but:
DO WE WANT TO LIVE IN A SOCIETY THAT DISQUALIFIES WOMEN IN ARTS FOR BEING A MOTHER?
DO WE WANT TO RENOUNCE THE ARTISTIC WORKS OF WOMEN THAT HAVE GAINED ACCESS TO ANOTHER FIELD OF EXPERIENCE THROUGH THEIR MOTHERHOOD?
IS THE ART WORLD TODAY STILL AS MALE DOMINATED AS BEFORE? DO WE ACCEPT THAT?
AND: WHAT COULD THE VIEWERS’ DEMANDS TOWARDS MECHANISMS OF SELECTION WITHIN THE FIELD OF ART BE LIKE – HOW COULD THEY BE REDEFINED?
In recent years a lot of younger female artists have had children.
For them, a decision between art or child is not acceptable anymore. Instead, they wish to bridge motherhood and artistry.
As a reply to that reality we declare two approaches to have priority:
A great amount of artist grants are unsuitable for artists with kids: travel scholarships or artist residencies, forming a major part of the available support measures, normally are unfit for mothers (especially with younger children), because they cannot or do not want to leave the family context for longer periods of time. Bringing the kids or the whole family along is rarely supported and sometimes even excluded in the application conditions.
– by generating scholarships that are explicitly designed and announced for female artists with children and by adjusting residency conditions to family coherence.
… For Hamburg as the founding place of the initiative that could mean, for example, setting up a one-year scholarship for female artists with children similar to the existing Hamburg working grant. The scholarship could enable the chosen artists to concentrate on the continuation and consolidation of their artistic work for the period of one year without having to spend extra time on earning a living besides caring for the kids … We are eager to find out about the outcome!
*(1) By using the expressions female artist or woman we comprise, in this context, any person that feels inherent to the female gender or orientated between or beyond the binary gender system and that by conscious decision has entered a relation of motherhood characterized by care and responsibility and that sees herself therefore confronted with the label “mother”.