Satellite Residency Reflection
When we hosted our first group of artists at Cow House eleven years ago, we understood the value of uninterrupted time and space to make work. We strove to create a place where a small artistic community could engage with all the possibilities of making work in our unique environment. We wanted to support artists, and as recent MFA graduates ourselves we understood the importance of continuing to make work after leaving college.
As the years passed, through our residency program, we hosted artists of varying ages and stages in their careers, but notably very few of them were parents. Over that time too we became parents and the challenges of maintaining an art practice amidst the magic and madness of parenting became apparent to us.
Our children have always been very present at Cow House, and we feel extremely lucky that they have the chance to meet so many incredible artists but we also understood the difficulties of integrating children with a residency program where they may not be expected.
Since those early parenting days we have had it in our mind to offer a family friendly residency; knowing how hugely beneficial it would be for parenting artists to take part in a residency where children are welcome. We were also aware of the growing number of graduate opportunities around the country and so we felt that a residency for parents was notably missing. Both moments in an artist’s career provide their unique challenges and perhaps the systemic obstacles that face new parents may even exceed those of recent graduates.
The Mothership Project were fantastic collaborators to pilot this residency. Fifteen Artists were selected to participate over a 6 week period. Most came to Cow House for a week, some for a few days and a lucky few for almost 2 weeks. Most artists came with their partners while a few came by themselves. Over the course of the residency, we hosted sixteen children ranging in age from 6 months to 11 years, who were in the daily care of our onsite childminder.
This was an incredibly rich and productive few weeks at Cow House. Some artists needed the mental space to figure out where to go next or how to begin again, others wanted to reignite the desire to create, some came with a specific project in mind, and as always there were a lot of unforeseen discoveries. It was evident that many were surprised by what they could achieve in a short period of time and there was a real sense of camaraderie, empathy and understanding between the artists.
A shared meal has always been an important part of the day at Cow House, not only to socialise but this provision also frees up a huge amount of time in the day to create art. For parents in particular who have little mouths to feed, we heard how lovely a gift it was not to have to cook dinner or more significantly, not to think about cooking dinner! It was, in turn, our pleasure to kick them out of the kitchen when they would go into auto-pilot and start cleaning up after a meal!
We learned a lot from the Satellite Residency, we saw how making some simple changes such as having a playroom and putting up a few baby gates can help things run smoothly but more importantly, how the shared attitude surrounding children being present opened up many conversations surrounding the challenges that parenting artists face.
Watch this space for more family-friendly residences next year!