Welcome Autumn Interns: Back to School

This September the Museum of Motherhood is extremely pleased to welcome two new amazing people to our fall semester team. Please join us in our growing excitement to get to work on some great new projects in grant writing and art-sourcing as we dive into more about moms’ lives and work.

My name is Jade Jemison. I’m a 2nd-year MFA student on the Nonfiction track at USF. I write about relationships, reproductive health and treatment, culture, how trauma manifests in adulthood, and the effects of religious upbringings. I also study mother-daughter relationships in Black literature. I study how they are portrayed and how the representation of these relationships affects our community and societal expectations of Black daughters. I’m also passionate about discovering ways to support mothers, provide literature education to them, and the process of creating scholarships for mothers who need childcare (while attending school, conferences, writing retreats, etc).

In this grant writing internship, I’d love to learn about grant writing as a field: how to research grants, how to apply for grants (both in the process and writing), how to manage and reapply for grants, how to identify grants that fit a specific criteria, and how to evaluate grants. I’d love to gain more skills in this area. 

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome

Tori Wright – Bio: I am a 26 year old mother of a one year and pregnant with our next little one coming soon. I have a Bachelors degree in Anthropology from Ohio University and currently working on earning my Masters in Museum Studies from University of Oklahoma. For a couple years after graduating from Ohio University I worked as a cultural resource manager, traveling doing archaeology surveys for a variety of companies. I have worked with young children as a daycare worker of nanny since that position while I got married and started my own family. The journey of motherhood that I have personally been through the past couple years has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. I have seen my sister, friends and close family members become mothers throughout my life, but nothing compares to going through it yourself. I am excited to work with MoM to see how this journey has changed others. As well as working to push the boundaries especially in these enlightened days of what the world thinks motherhood is. The journey is different for anyone that goes through it and art is a wonderful way to be able to express the individual stories as well show the world what it really means to be a mother.

*If you are a mother artist making art, literature, music, or scholarship about your experiences, please write to us. We are working on a schedule of presentations throughout the 2022-23 year.

Pandemic Parenting with Amy Swartz & The Drawing Board, by Rachael Grad

Amy Swartz on The Drawing Board for MOM project. Amy is an artist, professor, and mother of 2. Here she is interviewed by Rachael Grad for the final series in our online Pandemic Parenting Exhibit. This is the final presentation for the online exhibit Pandemic Parenting at the Museum of Motherhood, August 2022. The MoM team thanks Rachael for her excellent curation and dissemination of this series.

“Being a mom is giving your daughter the best air pods.”

RG: How did Motherhood change your art?

AS: I need force and pressure to create things. After grad school I was featured in Canadian Art, NOW magazine and other publications. Then my mom died and I got pregnant. Not having deadlines after grad school, it was easy to get derailed. I was gutted, grieving, and stopped making art when I first became a mom. My second child was born 2 years later.

I went about 7 years without showing work. My husband is a carpenter/cabinetmaker who made me a studio in the backyard. I started collecting dead insects – the first was a dragonfly that looked dead and alive at same time. I put together about 20 insects in different boxes, for example, jewelry boxes. I attached one of the army man heads from my husband’s childhood toy soldier collection on a moth. Then I made an army of hundreds of the creatures. My husband made containers for them. I had nowhere to show them and no website.

A parent at my kids’ school is a photographer and took photos in exchange for keeping one. He introduced me to his gallerist friend Jamie Angell, who later visited my studio and showed the work. My children were youngish when I was making that work and being included in lots of shows. When we started The Drawing Board, I started focusing more on that collaborative work. 


RG: How did you start The Drawing Board?

AS: I knew JJ Lee from graduate school at York University. When I started teaching at the Toronto School of Art, I met Natalie Waldburger. I became an instructor at OCAD University where JJ and Natalie were also teaching. We used to go to a bar right across the street from Michaels, where they gave crayons. We started drawing together at meals/drinks to get out our frustrations. We went over each other’s drawings, crossing things out and redrawing. We found that we worked well together and officially started The Drawing Board in 2016.

It started out more performative and is now more collaborative with other invited artists. In our last show at the Red Head Gallery, we worked with 9 artists who gave assignments or drawings to us. The three of us completed the assignments together.

RG: Why did you start working in this way?

AS: We found ourselves effected by the political issues, intense atmosphere, power structure, and inequity in University meetings. Afterward, we doodled intensely as a creative and healthy way to safely process. We used the fodder and energy to make work. We looked at tensions among creative people within a bureaucracy that guides teachers. We play with grids and office supplies that talk about superstructure.


RG: How often do you meet?

AS: Attempts to put in a structure haven’t worked. We’re very different but like a family. Somehow, we make work and do things together around our kids’ and our work. We think of something to apply for or do and get it done. We can do a lot very quickly together, for example, we write and get grants and funding in a very organic manner. The Drawing Board has a studio space at OCAD University. We will apply for a show and grant this year if nothing happens with our families.

RG: Do you have any individual projects planned?

AS: I haven’t had a show on my own in 2 years. The last one was cancelled because of the pandemic.

RG: How has your participation in The Drawing Board changed your individual art practice?

AS: In some ways, it hasn’t changed my practice. I’m in “Amy mode” when working alone. But I’m more apt to do things more quickly I hadn’t before tried. I can be a perfectionist on my own. Now I think of Nat and JJ when working on my own and am more open. My children have really needed me in the last few years. I don’t have words for my current work and am not ready to share it.

RG: Is there anything you would change or do differently?

AS: I am slowing down now. I wish that I had slowed down earlier with my kids, family, education, and everything! I want to be more present and patient. Both of my parents died young and didn’t meet my kids. My grandmother died at 103 of COVID during the first few weeks of the pandemic. I wish I hadn’t been so busy in my mind. In teaching this year, I will take out an assignment out of every class to give more time for my students. We need more space to have fallow time as artists. We need to look at the window and not be bombarded with stuff.

RG: What surprised you about being a mother artist?

AS: As a mom, I kept thinking I knew about stereotypes of my children’s stages. Every time it’s not what I imagined. These beings that are my children are not like me at all. They come from me but are not me. I look at kids and am always pleasantly surprised.

See full exhibit Link

Pandemic Parenting Interview with Batnadiv Hakarmi, by Rachael Grad

RG: How did motherhood change your art?

BH: To my surprise, when I became a mother, my work became so much more collaborative. Before I had children, I worked alone in the studio on personal projects. I used the space whenever I wanted, including late at night.The idea of sharing did not work with my entire approach to art-making. The changes began during my first pregnancy, when I had to change mediums because I developed an allergy to turpentine. After my first child was born, I worked at home painting small works in watercolor on a desk. Later, I started working with other moms.

All my support came from other mothers. I was lucky enough to be part of the group “A Studio of Her Own” which included a lot of other young moms with kids. A few of us got together to rent collaborative studio space that was child-friendly, and people used it at different times.  We did a series of site-specific projects together, working on big murals and projects in historic buildings and public spaces.  I love working big and not having to clean up a studio space. My friend Julia Aronson and I did a series of collaborative murals. We discussed the idea, then alternated painting days  with each other, in a kind of visual game of Exquisite Corpse. We had to let go of control and let someone else in. We kept a blog about our last project [Link below].

At home my kids get into my art materials, so I got them their own sketchbooks and supplies. They still always want mine though. 

RG: Were the changes in motherhood a surprise?

BH: I knew something was going to change but didn’t know how. I foresaw needing to work smaller. The opening of working collaboratively with other mothers was a good surprise.

RG: How do you fit in studio time with kids?

BH: My three children are now in kindergarten, pre-school, and daycare, respectively. Until each baby was a year old, I hired a babysitter once a week so I could have painting time, and I attended a late-night sculpture group. During the pandemic, for a year I didn’t have childcare so couldn’t do any art, except what I called my ‘stolen sketch time’. Before then, I found ways to paint or draw daily.

RG: Was there a big shift going from one child to 2?

BH: Yes. Two is more complicated because there’s a toddler to run after. I am always outnumbered. But for me the biggest shift was going from 0 to one child. The actual transition into motherhood has been transformative.

RG: What books, groups, web resources do you recommend?

BH: I find that working with other mothers is the most helpful way to navigate creativity amidst the chaos of motherhood. I am part of a wonderful poetry group called Mama Poets Write who used to meet once every two weeks for a night of writing. For art practice, I have artist friends who I would meet regularly. I worked with Julia Aronson on the mural projects and I participate in a regular sculpture group of women of different ages. I found my tribe and painting friends after having kids.

RG: Is there anything you would change or do differently?

BH: I was teaching before the pandemic in 3 different places. During the pandemic, it was a real struggle to teach on zoom with kids at home. I didn’t go back to teaching until after lockdown was over because it was too difficult to get childcare. I used to teach art at Brandeis University in the summer and I really miss it. I found there isn’t that much flexibility in teaching so between lockdowns and quarantines, I transitioned to giving workshops and doing freelance editing. The work does take away from my art practice – it’s a constant juggle to make time and space.  

RG: What’s your biggest struggle?

BH: A big struggle- quoting Virginia Woolf and her ‘Room of One’s Own’ – is a prescient issue. The lack of space for a mother-artist is huge. I need a space for myself to maintain my art practice. Yet, now even my bedroom is not my own. When you are pregnant, even your own body is not your own. I was never alone during the pandemic and I would like to find another collaborative space. Our original space was located in Beit Alliance, a subsidized cultural center. We had an amazing synergy and did some exceptional projects. But, as mothers of young children, we were not typical artists. We look or behave like people assume artists do. We didn’t attend late night events. We set up alternate events which were well attended, but our landlords did not renew our lease. I do think there is some discrimination against mother-artists and caretakers. I’m currently working in Ha Mifal where my sculpture group has a residency and exhibition. I am sure new things will arise as the future unfolds.

Blog Project with Julia and Batnadiv is here.

Full exhibit with Batnadiv at MoM is here [LINK]

Pandemic Parenting Exhibit with Rachael Grad and Natalie Majaba Waldburger

“My artwork grows itself like children. I set the path, feed them as needed, and create the right environment, then you’re good to go.  Monitor and tweak as needed. You just enjoy what happens after that. There are many unknowns after that but that is part of the joy of trusting and letting go.” ~ Natalie Majaba Waldburger

Natalie Waldburger Pandemic Parenting Exhibit

Bio: Natalie Majaba Waldburger’s current art practice is open-disciplinary and seeks to understand the complexities of respectful collaboration and participatory work in the context of anti-colonial research.  In recent years, institutional critique has become the focus for collaborative art practices as a co-founding member of The Drawing Board.  As an Associate Professor at OCAD U, Natalie has served as Chair for a number of programs in the faculty of Art including the inaugural Ada Slaight Chair of Contemporary Painting and Print Media and, most recently, Interim Chair of Sculpture/Installation and Life Studies and Grievance Chair for OCADFA.  The Life Studies area was the focus of Natalie’s appointment at OCAD U.  Life Studies is a specialization positioned in the Faculty of Art that brings together the arts, sciences, and humanities to cultivate interdisciplinary studio art practices.  These pedagogical approaches speak to Natalie’s own art research practice positioned at the intersection of sustainability, social justice, and ecologically-respectful art practices. [See full exhibit LINK]

Interview with Rachael Grad:

RG: How has your art changed during the pandemic?

NW: My work changed in the last year. I don’t make my own work when teaching, except for the collaborative work with The Drawing Board in which we talk about kids, work, and everything that’s happening in our lives. We are all mothers, teachers, administrators and artists and The Drawing Board became a way to support each other beyond the studio and outside of the institution.  It is an entity and a collective that is porous by necessity and a way to support each other as whole people with intersecting pressures that come with the different roles we have. The Drawing Board is where we can be silly, make commentary and give ourselves permission to try things that might fail. I am currently returning from a sabbatical from teaching at OCAD University. This opportunity allowed me to get out of the school/work grind, go offline, get back to materiality in art.

RG: What was your most recent collaborative project?

NW: The Drawing Board had a collective exhibition at the Red Head Gallery in Toronto during the height of the Omicron wave of the pandemic. We bubbled together and created work in the gallery. We invited 9 other artists to zoom in and participate. Six out of nine of the artists were moms. The guests gave us assignments and directions while we made art together in the gallery. We allow life to come in as commentary as well in our work –  the things that happen in our personal lives, our working lives and our individual artistic pursuits.

RG: What was your most recent individual project?

NW: I just finished a Bio-Art Residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. It was 6 weeks on my own, which was difficult for my family. I worked in a Level 1 Bio Lab.

RG: How did you get interested in biology and lab work?

NW: I started art and science work right out of OCAD seeking out anatomical studies in my figurative painting. Then I got interested in other scientific questions about what makes us human, like the human genome project. I later moved into installations then microscopic and cellular based works. I explore things that grow and ways in which materials grow themselves like having a child where you set the conditions, care and nurture the beings, and let them grow the way they want to. The surrounding environment impacts this particular work. My work has used wheatgrass, bioplastics, mycelium (the roots system of a mushroom). For my most recent project, I took molds of Victorian ceiling medallions that represent traditional Toronto architecture and also colonialism. I then filled them with mycelium while in the lab, allowing them to grow into these ornate forms.

RG: Why mycelium?

NW:  I wanted to continue with a material that, once started, would grow autonomously and introducing an element of the unknown to the process.  After doing some research I found that mycelium was used in research to predict the growth patterns of tumours. Because mycelium grows more quickly, in 2 to 3 weeks, it is a useful predictor of tumour behaviour. This resonated with me because my son has a brain tumor, diagnosed at 9 years old. The symptoms manifested initially as paralysis effecting his face, then arms and legs on the right side. He had to learn to walk again and undergo surgery, rehab and chemotherapy. It’s been challenging and yet amazing to see him grappling with this while still being a kid in school and eventually succeeding getting almost straight A’s in school. The disease has been unpredictable, and we never know what to expect. I’ve learned so much about Neurodiversity and navigating both the health and education systems.

RG: will you continue your research now that you’re back in Toronto?

NW: I’ll continue exploring but I don’t have the same lab access in Toronto. Life Studies will be able to build a mini-lab through a generous donation from the Joan and Clifford Hatch Foundation so that I can introduce some of these processes to Life Studies students. We can purchase an autoclave, which is a big giant sterilizing machine, alongside our current microscopes.  Next for our order is DNA sequencing equipment and growing equipment for plants. Interestingly, Life Studies was partnering with MaRS and Sick Kids and while on a tour of the SickKids research area I saw the lab housing my son’s tumor, two years after his surgery. Frequently, my research has mirrored and predicted what happens in my life.

RG: What’s next for you?

NW: In October my most recent residency work will be shown at Art Quarters on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto. The works, alongside mosses and terrariums will likely be installed on walls, not hung from the ceiling as in New York.

RG: Anything else you’d like to share on motherhood and art?

NW: Being a mother is why I explored this way of making. At first, I used a paintbrush and encaustic – body-like materials that do their own thing. Having a child encouraged me to give up more control and make the unknown even more the driver of this work. I enjoy being open to results and thinking about how both science and art practices speak to each other. My materials are experimental, and I employ the same letting go and relinquishing of control that is necessary in the collaborative process and in parenting.