Was My First Art Residency A Failure?

Ever since I was young, I knew I was a planner. At bedtime I would ask about the weather prediction for the next day and then would fall asleep wondering what activities would be optimal if I had to stay indoors or could go outside. During playtime I spent so much of my energy coming up with back stories and histories for my dolls that I would be spent before I even started to play. Being a planner - or more officially a “strategist” - has benefitted me throughout my career, especially when thinking ahead for any challenges that might come up and having contingency plans for contingency plans. Planning worked well for me - until it did not. This past week marks the two-year anniversary of when mandated lockdowns started happening in New York City, the last time I went into the office for a team meeting, and the last thing I would have expected was to have a virtual birthday celebration telling close friends we were pregnant. While we had to cancel trips, deal with unemployment, and have virtual checkups and baby showers, having disrupted plans is nothing compared to the constant unpredictability of raising a child.

It’s safe to assume that since my career is focused on planning and strategy, so is my self-care routine and creative practice. Become a parent was a new level of disruption to my routine I couldn’t fathom before. To this day, I’ve never known anxiety like when I would plan to wake up to a preset alarm in the morning only to wake in the middle of the night to tiny cries that escalated the more you ignored them. I’ve tried to orchestrate many ways of planning weekly schedules, batching tasks, and carving out chunks of my time to dedicate to various activities, but they’ve been disrupted by urgent client needs, a puke during snack time, or early morning wake ups. I thought I figured it out last month when I decided to use some of my PTO days to dedicate time for a virtual art residency through Artist/Mother, the first “residency” I’ve participated in. Then we got a call about a COVID-19 exposure at daycare and within a few days confirmed all three of us had it.

Part of participating in the Artist/Mother community over the last few months has made me realize that the roles of artist and mother do not have to be mutually exclusive. Instead of the isolated artist toiling away, creativity can be a part of daily interactions as a family. As a parent, what matters is the quality of time spent. As an artist, it’s about instilling a creative practice that’s easy to come back to, not something dependent on the perfect environment or schedule. For the week that my son was home from daycare, I decided to set aside my previously laid plans and focus on what was required in the moment, while making an effort to integrate my creative practice when possible. I did complete some studies for paintings during naptimes and practiced some embroidery work, but my favorite accomplishment was creating these “murals” with Ezra around our apartment. It’s literally his favorite activity to this day and my only hope is that it encourages him to continue being creative and have confidence in his making.

A residency is not just meant for the productive output of creative work. It’s also meant to be a time of reflection and contemplation. For how much planning has gone into my life, the reality is my social media career has only primed me to be ready to pivot and react when plans are disrupted. As I’m trying to understand my new identity as a parent, artist, and strategist, I’m realizing that my best ideas and innovations have come from being focused in the moment, working off of instinct, and drawing back to habits that feel natural after years of practice. As both a professional and parent, the presented solution to a fulfilling life is meticulous planning. As an artist, it’s about reacting to the world in real-time and expression through creation, not in how you plan for it. Overall, and what many in both the advertising and art world would say, creativity isn’t something you can plan for. It’s something that happens and you have to be ready to receive it, whether that’s through an expansive oil painting or stickers on a piece of sketch paper.

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