I am always interested in how artists – especially artists who are mothers – figure out how to balance art, home, and a job. My friend Kara Walker-Tome and I went to graduate school together –she was always ambitious, organized, and energetic. Now, she’s raising two kids and working as an independent curator organizing temporary exhibitions in non-traditional spaces (Here’s her website for ShowTel). When I heard she was planning a new project (read an article on 10 x 10) just months after the birth of her second baby, I thought I’d interview her about how she finds – or doesn’t find – balance.
It sounds like your recent curatorial project went well. With finite amounts of time and energy (and lots of demands on both) how did you make that happen?
With 10 x 10, I was sensible enough to know going in that I should make it a manageable project as I have very little time to devote to my work with the demands of a nine-year-old and a one-year-old. Also my husband’s current job requires a lot of his attention, so he is not very available for “ kid time” nor I do have much extended family support.
So I made decisions like using a smaller group of artists, inviting only artists I have worked with in the past that I know are responsible, doing minimal press and promotion and being OK with knowing the crowd might be smaller than other shows I have done, etc. I also had to scale down certain aspects and details along the way in direct proportion to the amount of time I could eek out.
Do you feel like you can keep current & active in your profession, while balancing your curatorial projects with your home life?
With this recent project, I definitely fretted that I wasn’t being as “ professional” and that it would affect the show. In retrospect, I realized that no one noticed any of the little imperfections I was stressing about and overall the show turned out wonderfully. That was a good lesson for me and it renewed my confidence, which in turn helped me decide to commit to my next project.
Are your decisions about taking on projects influenced more by practical factors (like finding child care) or internal ones (like your desires to be home for your kids and to be active in your career)? Or??
This is an opportune time to ask me about “ balancing” family and work life. In April I will curate the sixth installment of a show I had done annually until taking last year off after having my baby. Showtel will involve 30-40 artists doing site-specific work, a printed catalogue, sponsors and an estimated crowd of 600-800. A lot of work!
I know I will have to put out some money for daycare in order to make this show happen. I’ll consider it an investment against the show. Luckily I also feel my daughter is ready for daycare and I was referred to a sitter I like and trust.
I am nervous about pulling it off but I also feel compelled to jump in and do it and I am excited about it.
All this balancing and strategizing and compromising – is it worth it?
I’d like to openly bash the concept of “ balancing” motherhood and work…it’s not possible! In my opinion and experience “ balance” implies an evenness that just doesn’t happen. One side of the scale is always heavier than the other and the sides are always switching! The really challenging part is acknowledging that you are being pulled towards one or the other … As long as you are giving your best to each SOME of the time, that should be the goal.