Forging a New Path

"Things Otto Tried To Get", by Lenka Clayton

“Things Otto Tried To Get”, by Lenka Clayton

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how motherhood (and Fatherhood in many instances) affects, well, everything, but mainly how it affects artists, makers, and cultural creators. Most of us are holding down a serious full time job because being an artist or creator of any sort often doesn’t cut it, especially in Boston or New York. You just can’t get by without double duty. Now add a child to that mix and sh*t gets crazy. This is at the forefront of my mind because I am currently 6 months pregnant and fully steeped in the mental trip of trying to imagine what’s to come. That’s why the topic of artists and motherhood has already come up once in this blog’s short existence. It’s just where my head is at.

Although there have begun to be strides made, one of the biggest downfalls to many artist residency programs is that they don’t often allow artists to bring their families. With the huge amount of time, money, and emotional presence that a family requires it’s just about impossible to leave it all for any serious amount of time to attend a residency program. These programs have traditionally been built to be a way to escape all of life’s responsibilities in the interest of art making. This is valuable but excludes a lot of people.

That’s why when I stumbled across the website for Lenka Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood my heart skipped. I love it. I love it so much.

"Visitors Card - Front", by Lenka Clayton

“Visitors Card – Front”, by Lenka Clayton

"Vistors Card - Back", by Lenka Clayton

“Vistors Card – Back”, by Lenka Clayton

Clayton turns everything on its head. In her home in Pittsburgh, PA, she has created a residency for herself centered squarely on her family and uses what most consider the distractions and banalities of motherhood as creative material. In her words, this project is “set firmly inside the traditionally “inhospitable” environment of a family home, it subverts the art-world’s romanticisation of the unattached (often male) artist, and frames motherhood as a valuable site, rather than an invisible labor, for exploration and artistic production.”


This residency is not a part of any institution or existing artist community organization as traditional residencies are. Clayton is being funded as an individual artist by the Pittsburgh Foundation and is provided with funds for the studio, materials, a travel allowance, monthly stipend, studio assistance, mentorship, and accountability. Every city should have a Pittsburgh Foundation. You’ll find a video on their site through my link that has a brief statement from Lenka Clayton at about 3:50 in.

"Things Otto Hit Me With", by Lenka Clayton

“Things Otto Hit Me With”, by Lenka Clayton

The duration of the residency was initially meant to be a about 7 1/2 months between September, 2012, and April, 2013, but Clayton became pregnant with her second child and, with the help of the Sustainable Arts Foundation, has extended the residency to the first birthday of her second child. I, for one, am pretty excited that it hasn’t ended yet. I love the work she is producing. Something that I return to over and over again is her Studio Diary. She provides commentary and images of budding ideas and works in progress. Here’s a quote from 9/29/2012:

“The question of how to harness lack of time as a creative obstruction is on my mind. Perhaps it could be a filter that decides what I work on and how. I like the idea that the arbitrary length of Otto’s naps acts as a parameter of the work. Once he’s awake, the work is finished. As I write this he is crossly handing me books.”

Lenka Clayton has found a way to continue providing herself with studio time, forward moving career opportunities, and the ability to be a stay-at-home mother with maternity leave pay for well over a year. I am inspired. She has also promised to release a publication with documentation and blueprints of the residency to encourage others to replicate it in their own home. I will scoop that up the second it’s available to share with you.

3 responses to “Forging a New Path

  1. Very interesting Bonnie. I’ve looked at Lenka’s work and I love that she’s working with her situation instead of fighting it or waiting for a “free” moment…that hasn’t happened for me yet so I’m assuming others have similar struggles. Motherhood has also been inspiring and exciting and I’ve felt really inspired since becoming a parent. This story inspires me further. We shouldn’t have to give up being an artist when becoming a mother! Thanks for sharing, I’m excited for you and your new venture!

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