The Mothership Project is a network of parenting artists in Ireland. We aim to support parenting artists in the development of their practice and to encourage arts organisations to make the art world a more inclusive place for artists with children. Since 2013 The Mothership has hosted workshops and discussions on issues facing parenting artists in Ireland. We have also hosted show & tell events and reading groups around the theoretical underpinnings of this equality and solidarity based project.
The Mothership Project is currently managed collectively by four artists : Leah Hillard, Michelle Browne, Seoidín O’Sullivan and Tara Kennedy. They organise and administer the workings of the network. There are many artist parents who have contributed to this project and The Mothership exists through the collective effort and generosity of the many creative minds and caring bodies that have willed it into being.
The Mothership Project have presented as part of The Workers Cafe in 2013, VAI’s annual get Together 2014 and have led an Open Space Technology meeting at Roscommon Arts Centre in 2015 and as part of “My Brilliant Friend” in 2016 at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios. The Mothership have also hosted meetings in Limerick City Gallery, Visual Carlow, IMMA, Project Arts Centre and others.
The Mothership engaged in the architectural research project “Permanently Temporary” with Tara Kennedy to explore the experience of architecture in shared, cultural and co-working spaces for parents with young children, questioning how the design of these places might better support radical and active citizenship, flexible working practices and exchange of ideas, and therefore contribute to more socially diverse and inclusive living.
History of The Mothership Project
In April 2013, artist Seoidin O’ Sullivan sent an email to a few other female artists she knew asking if they had experienced similar issues to her as a mother and artist. There was an immediate response from her friends who in turn suggested other artists who might also be interested and within 3 weeks there was a group of over 20 female artists and arts workers exchanging views, ideas and links in relation to the subject of being an artist and parent. On the 20th May the first meeting of 5 of these artists was held in Michelle Browne’s studio in IMMA. Michelle Browne, Orla Whelan, Helen Barry, Seoidin O’ Sullivan & Fiona Whelan engaged in a two-hour discussion while two toddlers Rhian and Cleo played. Many of the themes that had arisen in emails were discussed. There were 3 types of issues named: Some of the issues named related to being an artist in general, some seemed specific to being an artist and a parent, some from the point of view of female artist parent. These included:
- Perception as an artist when a mother
- Part-time vs full-time working partner
- Studio issues – visibility
- Quality of work
- Patriarchal art Institutions
- Gallery openings and children
- Male artist parents
- Motherhood vs parenthood.
- How as women and women with children we challenge the things we are talking about?
- What actions can we take? What is the potential within this group?
After much discussion we agreed to host 4 further sessions, each with a specific focus:
Session 1: Orla Whelan – Studio – ‘ Network of professionals working out side a group studio structure’
Session 2: Helen Barry: Time and Money: Precarity and getting paid.
Session 3: Fiona Whelan : Perception of mother/artist: How does having a child effect the artist within a reputational economy?
Session 4: Seoidin O’Sullivan Support network and Creche: Can we create alternatives? Informal group for meeting up and going to galleries and sharing information.