MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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History, Foundling Wheels, and Experiments in Public Health

During the years that M.O.M operated out of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, posters adorned each of the 2,500 square space’s pillars. These posters focused on quirky and sometimes tragic facts spanning ten centuries of childbirth. One of the most curious posters, and the one that most often elicited conversation from students was the photo and description of the foundling wheel of The Ospedale degli Innocenti in Italy.

Interior courtyard of Ospedale degli Innocenti

This hospital, cum orphanage, history tells us, was an experiment in social welfare and public health fifteenth century-style.

Completed in 1445, the institution received its first abandoned infant ten days later. What the text books tell us differs a great deal from what research anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy discovered and wrote in her provocative book Mother Nature. While I am not at my desk as I write this blog (travels continue to take me through Italy and the surrounding regions), my memory of her book and scholar Jocelyn Fenton Stitt’s 2014 online MSU course on Motherhood Studies stands out. Challenging romanticized notions of caring mothers fawning over their newborns, the foundling hospital tells a different story.

Artifacts left behind along with abandoned newborns were catalogued & curated

Of all the places on our scheduled visit through Italy this summer, this was the destination I was most excited about. According to Hrdy, hundreds of thousands of abandoned newborns died behind these walls, victims of illness, starvation, and a vast population of women, who through circumstance for a great number of reasons were unable to care for their infants. Challenging the assumption that all mothers can or will care for their babies, most of these children born illigitimately, during times of social unrest, during plagues, amidst starvation, and for so many other complex and wide-ranging reasons, were abandoned in the middle of the night and left to fate.

The hospital was envisioned as a charitable institution six hundred years ago and continues to operate as a museum and advocate for youth through various programs. The museum today tells the story of its abandoned children through artifacts left along with the newborns who had to be tiny enough to squeeze through the grated entrance, pictured below.

The author, M. Joy Rose pictured in front of the foundling wheel gate

Once abandoned, a bell would ring, awakening attendants who would then feed and care for the children. For many reasons, Hrdy tells us, the vast majority of these stories end in death. There simply was no baby formula available (it wasn’t invented until the middle 1800s), and there were not enough wet nurses to go around.
The notion of abandoning a newborn, while repugnant to most, is actually evidence for the ongoing argument that women need to be able to choose when and if they will get pregnant and give birth. Baby boxes and other legitimate contemporary options continue to be available to mothers unwilling or unable to care for their newborns in the U.S. and around the world. The Ospedale degli Innocenti stands as testimate to the social history and personal stories of countless children and their families.

Wet nurses hired to feed and care for the babies

Join me by checking in at my personal blog as I spend the next several weeks traveling Europe ~ MOM Founder, Director, M. Joy Rose

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Residency At The Annex [Christen Clifford]

Here at M.O.M., residencies offer an opportunity for an intensive focus on your writing, art, research, or special project. M.O.M. accepts one residency per time period and we are pleased to announce our first opportunity beginning January 1st, for two weeks, with artist, performer, and academic Christen Clifford. Find out more about the requirements to participate here and access our online calendar.

The M.O.M. Art Annex Residency Program is currently open to students, artists, and scholars engaged in the study of women, mothers, fathers, and families. This live/work space in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, Fl is an opportunity for those wishing to focus for an extended period of time on research, writing, or art-making in a quiet setting, close to amenities, in a supportive environment. If the residency doesn’t work for you, but you want to visit, then you can plan a trip on AirBnB  as well [Link].

M.O.M. has a long relationship with universities and art organizations around the world including: Materials for the Arts (NYC), St Petersburg Arts Alliance (FL), The Mom Egg Literary Review (NY), Procreate Project (London), The Artist Parent Index (Virginia), The Mamapalooza Festival, Demeter Press (Canada), M/other Voices (Rotterdam), Columbia U (NYC), Teachers College (NYC), Manhattan College (NYC), Marymount Manhattan College (NYC), Eckerd College (FL), and more.

About Christen

Christen Clifford, a feminist writer, feminist performance artist, curator, professor, actor, and  mother artist whose performances and writing use her experiences of maternal sexuality, menstruation, rape, and the female body as material, is launching a new project called Pussy Bow.

The Pussy Bow is silky blouse with a long, floppy bow attached to the neck. Currently a popular fashion item, Clifford reimagines it as a feminist action disguised as a fashion accessory. Hers is real pussy bow, printed with images of her own pussy.

Last September, as part of a performance hosted by the dance group AUNTS at New York’s Ace Hotel, Clifford used the wireless internal-camera vibrator Siime Eye to broadcast photos directly onto the walls of the hotel (and to remote viewers through Periscope) from inside her vagina. She took these images and created a pattern that she then printed onto silk and fashioned into a long, thin, stylish scarf. Clifford will donate 10% of each Pussy Bow purchase to Planned Parenthood.

The Huffington Post writes, “there’s an entirely new way to wear genitals,” and Style Mic proclaims the Pussy Bow is “making waves,” and “capping off the biggest fashion trend of 2015.” The Daily Dot lists ideal Pussy Bow models: “Donald Trump. Also: Michelle Obama, Lena Dunham, Cecile Richards [President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.] Anyone who loves pussy, anyone who loves equality and style.”

We will be updating you as the new Art Annex continues its mission in the new year.

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Christen Clifford Live Performance

Featured image on homepage by http://www.anyaliftig.com/

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Spend A Night At The Museum (now on AirBnB)

The Museum of Motherhood Art Annex Guest Cottage is perfect for your quick trip or your extended stay! Whether you’re a student interested in sociology, motherhood, women’s and gender studies, or you want to enjoy the local restaurants, culture and soak up the beach vibe in St. Petersburg, Florida, we are here to welcome you.

(read more below, or click the picture to see our listing on AirBnB)

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The Space

Our Cottage, off the main exhibit space, boasts a queen size bed, writing desk, and mini-kitchen. At approximately 450 square feet, the converted property was designed for contemplation and rest. Guests can expect a comfortable space for two.

There is a memory foam queen-size murphy bed and room to hang your clothes. The mini-kitchen has sink, stove, fridge, as well as pots, pans and dishes. There is a bar-height counter, free Internet, and a secret garden for sipping your morning coffee. A trendy corrugated metal shower and composting toilet round out your tiny-house experience.

Ideal for singles, students, pregnant couples, and travelers from afar, your stay includes a private introduction to the M.O.M. Museum with access to current exhibit features. Simply make arrangements with your host for the date and time of your detailed tour.

The Neighborhood

St. Petersburg is a City of the Arts. St. Petersburg’s thriving arts and culture scene reaches far beyond the state of Florida. Represented by outstanding museums, scores of independent galleries, a successful, close-knit community of working artists and crafts-people, and a stellar performing arts community, St. Petersburg’s cultural scene is one of the best in the southeastern United States, and it is located on the Gulf of Mexico. What could be better?

Getting Around

The nearest airport is Tampa International. The SuperShuttle from Tampa to St. Pete is approximately $50. Ubers and taxis are available too, as are rental cars. Once in St. Pete there is public transportation by trolley, bicycle, and cab. However, a car makes getting around super-convenient.

Other Things To Note

We especially welcome those interested in family studies, pregnant couples, PhD students, travelers curious about American motherhood, and art-lovers. This is my home, live/work space, so your appreciation, respect, and interest are greatly appreciated. We are looking to educate and enlighten our guests, so bring your curiosity and sense of appreciation, please.

Florida Beach Rental

Redington Beach Vacation on Air BnB. This rental property is owned by museum founder M. Joy Rose. No free residency opportunities- rentals only available here. Click the link to see more info. [LINK]]

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New Exhibits Are Up In St. Pete. Space Opens By Appointment Only Thurs., Fri., Sat., January 1, 2017

Welcome All –

The M.O.M. Museum Art Annex is poised to open its doors on January 1, 2017. The new hours are by appointment only. You must call ahead or e-mail: PH: 207.504.3001/MOMmuseum@gmail.com. Visitors may also opt to “Spend A Night At The Museum,” Thurs-Sat. More info coming on Air B & B.

Our new Live/Work space is pioneered by M. Joy Rose. Over the last year or two, an explosion in mother-making-art has taken place across England and America. Most recently, The Mother House (a summer experiment by Dyana Gravina and the Procreate Project, Nicola Smith and We Are Resident, as well as others, have inspired and connected art, motherhood, and the greater cultural community.

In 2016 a presentation by Sarah Black called “Mother As Curator” at the Annual Academic M.O.M. Conference described her home environment as a video, art, installation, and inter-generational family experience. Her treatise declared that as an artist, she “blurs the boundaries of art, and the personal, family and audience, narrative and auto-biographic practices.” She states that as a “performance maker, she explores the home as both a physical and a metaphysical structure to house the work.” In this way, spaces are informed and co-created by those who participate in its interiors, but similarly, its interiors also hold a template for studying the things it contains from a distance.

As part of The Arts Enclave of Historic Kenwood, in the city of St. Petersburg, this new location aspires to be several things: an ongoing place to study motherhood, fatherhood, and family; an arts annex, preserving and interpreting objects for public consumption; a place of learning; a place to gather; and mostly, a template for all the possibilities to come, as M.O.M. continues to grow and thrive. (read more below slide show)

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The current exhibit features: Mother The Job, Moms of Rock, African Body Mask, Helen Hiebert, Pro Create Project Archive, Norman Gardner, Capucine Bourcart, Noa Shay, Ella Dreyfus, Helen Knowles, Anna Rose, Vee Malnar, Flavia Testa, Isabel Czerwenka-Wenkstetten, Christen Clifford, our library, including the Andrea O’Reilly Reading Room with the complete Demeter Press works, DVD Collection, CDs and more. Visitors may also enjoy trying on the Pregnancy Simulator Vest or exploring our “Science of Reproduction” exhibit. In addition, I will be using this space to continue to explore mother-labor as performance-art and to teach small groups of students. Here is my very brief bio. I look forward to meeting you soon.

M. Joy Rose holds a BFA in Theater and a Master of Liberal Studies in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on Mother Studies. She is a musician, concert promoter, museum founder, and fine artist. Her work has been published across blogs and academic journals, and she has performed with her band Housewives On Prozac on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Oakland Art & Soul Festival to name a few. She is the NOW-NYC recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, her Mamapalooza Festival Series has been recognized as “Best in Girl-Power Events” in New York, and her music has appeared on the Billboard Top 100 Dance Charts.

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SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT & Perform With FEROCITY-St. Petersburg, FLA-Feb 10-11, 2017

Deadline Extended to November 20th!

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CFP – Mothering From The Margins Conference; St. Petersburg, FLA

10-11 February 2017

How can mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and caregivers SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT, and perform with FEROCITY?

Calling all social scientists, women’s, sexuality, and gender scholars, masculinity studies scholars, motherhood and fatherhood scholars, artists, performers, and those interested in caregiving and motherwork more generally for a creative and critical dialogue around the concept of “mothering from the margins.” How can our research, activism, and art make a difference?

Each individual and family engages in care practices from a specific social location, made up of a multitude of intersecting and co-constituting identities that are accompanied by significant privileges and oppressions. For many, motherwork takes place from the margins of society, where individuals and kin networks that do not conform to dominant family structures find themselves. We aim to consider the experiences of oppression, the possibilities for empowerment, and the impacts on individuals, families, and children when people mother from the margins. Of special interest are the following topics: LGBTQ+, queer, and alternative kinship structures; teen and young adult parents; racial minority and multiracial families; transnational caregiving and undocumented families; motherwork from and within marginalized faith communities; adoptive, blended, and multi-household families; caring for or as differently-abled or neuro-atypical; single mothers; low-income mothers and families using public assistance; conceiving and parenting after miscarriage or child death; and negotiating in/fertility; as well as those who do not identify with normative-retro-patriarchal versions of mothering and caregiving.

We welcome submissions from scholars, students, activists, artists, community agencies, service providers, journalists, mothers, and others who work or research in this area. Cross-cultural, historical, and comparative work is encouraged. We also encourage a variety of types of submissions including individual academic papers from all disciplines, proposals for panels, creative submissions, performances, storytelling, visual arts, film, music, audio, and other alternative formats.

All participants are encouraged to submit their presentation, post-conference for publication in the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), in August of 2017. See more at JourMS.org

Contact info@MOMmuseum.org with questions

SUMBIT HERE

READ ABOUT ANNUAL M.O.M. CONFERENCES SINCE 2005 HERE

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Patriarchy and its Obsession with Feminine Chastity [Click]

By Pavithra Viswanath

Manju is a mother of two and a feminist. Throughout our conversation, Manju discussed patriarchy through her feminist lens and expressed her views and anger about various social problems and practices. I am unsure why she did not share any of her personal experiences. Manju started the conversation by discussing how many rituals in Indian marriage were meant primarily for women. “The idea of wearing wedding string (Mangala sutra) after marriage is an ultimate reminder of the importance of chastity in a patriarchal society,” says Manju. “After coming to the USA I was not comfortable wearing a heavy Mangala sutra and but my in-laws wouldn’t let me remove it, so I had to switch to a lighter one instead.” She went on talking about how Karva-Chauth, a Hindu festival where married women fast for the health and longevity of their husbands. “Karva-Chauth is nothing but a reflection of a patriarchal mindset of Indian society.” With a burst of laughter, she added: “I wish men had some ritual during our postpartum where there would do all chores and pray for our wellness and health.” I was able to sense a hidden anger behind her laughter. It made me think how even if we give it a modern look by letting the husband fast along with the wife — but there’s no way one can wish away these ritual’s inherent misogyny. These simple routines build an utterly expendable divine halo around the husband and show the society and women that her place is at her husband’s feet. The man becomes the protector of her womanhood, her purity. It is well-known fact that the Indian society using patriarchy begins to install inferior feeling in its women at a very young age: in the name of culture, superstition, discrimination and festivals. Those who choose not to follow are looked down upon as angry feminists, toxic for the society.

Manju also discussed her thoughts about marriage “Marriage should be a bond of love, equality, companionship and mutual respect. Marriage should not be used as an instrument to carry out patriarchal rituals to oppress women.” I totally agree with her view and feel that a tradition which urges women to worship men is no less than graphic violence. Manju explained the sufferings of her career-oriented female friend who refused to marry “her relatives questioned her about her chastity. I don’t know how marriage would make women pure.” I felt that this reaction of the society is utterly predictable given that all women in the patriarchal social setting are immediately seized upon as “evil women” when they refuse to marry, opt out of motherhood or even if the husband dies. Manju went on explaining the irony of how feminism in a patriarchal society is what shunned the feminine virtues of chastity and modesty and it is what enable men to look upon women as sexual objects “As women are becoming more and more qualified they all become prey to people’s eyes and comments.” Patriarchy is where female sexuality is most highly cherished and protected. Ideally, women should feel safe in a patriarchal society. Instead, it allows men to view women as “public property” and to be openly celebrated over by people in general social settings. There are some of the things that stayed with me even after leaving Manju’s house. I felt heavy at heart after the conversation. It’s hard to explain the feeling. We weren’t able to smile when we said bye. We both felt that there is more to talk and to do.

About the artwork: Inspired by the epic Ramayana where Sita was forced to prove her purity by undergoing a fire ordeal.

About the author: Pavithra Viswanath

Pavithra is pursuing Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a specialization in Maternal Mental Health. She is passionate about understanding critical issues within social justice movements for women, and its relationship to the modern society. She is always drawn to the narratives and experiences of women related to these issues. She believes that there is pressing need to explore the status of a woman as a mother from various dimensions such as economic status, religion, culture, and society pressure in developing countries like India. She is also in the process of completing her ‘Sexuality Women and Gender certification’. During this fall she will be interning as a Sexual assault advocate at SAKHI for South Asian Women, New York. In her free time, Pavithra enjoys cuddling with her 3-year-old daughter, reading her favorite Tamil literature or listening to music. (Keep reading below: Pavithra’s essay Modern Day Patriarchy: Experiences of Indian Mothers).

Read Pavithra Viswanath’s previous postings here #1 [LINK], #2 [LINK}. #3 [LINK]. Pavithra is a digital media intern at M.O.M.

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