Gestation: Building Relationships + Nurturing My Practice (Soar Emerging Artist Festival) by Laura Ajayi

Arting and momming at the walking reception for the M.A.P.S. Project (Soar Emerging Artist Festival in Lethbridge, AB)

Arting and momming at the walking reception for the M.A.P.S. Project (Soar Emerging Artist Festival in Lethbridge, AB)

After art school, I more or less withdrew from the art community. Being flat broke, underemployed, and overwhelmingly anxious in a brand new city was... paralyzing.  The logistical realities of sudden poverty made it tough to find time/space/energy/materials for art-making, and psychologically I was just not up for it.  Then I got married, moved to the remote Canadian Arctic (far, far away from my Western conception of an 'art scene'), and birthed two children. I tried many times to return to art-making, with limited success.

Now I see what was missing. I didn't have ongoing connections to any artists! The absence of creative community made me feel as though I was working in a vacuum, and I found it nearly impossible to make anything interesting at all. With no audience, what is the point? With no ability to take in exhibitions, chat with other creative folks or place my work in the context of others', where is the motivation?

Enter: Soar Emerging Artist Festival, hosted by CASA in Lethbridge, AB. Through a generous bursary from the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, the whole family was able to make the trip down so that I could attend the opening reception for the M.A.P.S. Project and participate in the weekend Symposium.  The seminars and panel discussions were excellent, and it was so invigorating to be finally nurturing my professional development and social network as an artist.  Motherhood has not generally made this type of experience more accessible, and I am so appreciative of the folks at CASA/AAC for supporting my needs as a mother artist during the festival.

Artist Residency in Motherhood: A Manifesto by Laura Ajayi

The original Artist Residency in Motherhood, developed by Lenka Clayton, contained the following in its manifesto:

I will undergo this self-imposed artist residency in order to fully experience and explore the fragmented focus, nap-length studio time, limited movement and resources and general upheaval that parenthood brings and allow it to shape the direction of my work, rather than try to work "despite it."

Having experienced the transition, earth-shattering and entirely banal, into parenting, I am reaching now for a way to dig myself out of the overwhelm and find a place where the mother and the family can be together, where the mother can exist and make work and feel like a person in the world. I will let go of the gloriously impossible ideal of endless, uninterrupted studio time when I am well-rested and inspired. Life happens in the sticky-jam fingers, the pee all over the floor, the overflowing laundry and the eyeballs swimming and burning from sleeplessness. I will make work where I live and live where I make work. The hours spent breastfeeding, cleaning, folding, ordering, dirtying, crying, snuggling, carrying, playing, reading, rocking, and storytelling will be my source material, my research. My kids will be allowed in the studio (within reason). They will grow up knowing their mother as a person who makes strange and lovely things; this will be their normal. I will read background texts and do sketchbook work and manage files and update my website while my son does his own thing (hopefully: imaginative play; realistically: Netflix) and his sister naps. I will not feel guilty because in a high intensity home with bodies bumping up against each other and long nights and tantrums and teething, we all need a little space. I will ramp up my production in the evenings and invite my husband to work in the studio too, an approximation of date night. I will be tired.  (Will I always be tired?)  I will move toward an integration of my artist-self and my mother-self. I will strive to make sure each is doing her work.

I will propel myself out of isolation. I have been so isolated.  I will look for opportunities to connect with artists and mothers: online, by renewing old relationships, by attending art events, by submitting work widely, by reading and hearing the wisdom collected by these women who raise children and make things at the same time.

The initial six-month residency will be dedicated to research and experimentation. This is my gestation period. At the end of 2016, I will reflect on Phase One of my Artist Residency in Motherhood and prepare for the next Phase.



Lenka Clayton's original Artist Residency in Motherhood

ARIM - the self-directed, open-source residency developed from the original project