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With Limited Time To Create, Artist-Parents Face Challenges And Rewards

Clothing designer Ari Fish and her daughter.

Several months ago, KCUR asked “artist types” to tell us how parenting changed their art. Artists from across the region shared their stories about trying to find the time to be creative, while also juggling careers and the responsibilities of parenthood. 

It's clear from the responses that becoming a parent can dramatically change how artists commit to their craft.

"I am a single parent, so life ended when I had my son," says Maura Garcia, a dancer and choreographer in DeSoto, Kan. "And then a new one began."

Garcia designs site-specific performances and community-based arts projects. She also teaches in the public schools. But Garcia says parenting shifted her focus. 

"Everything else comes second, including time for creation, time for touring, time for rehearsal and even financial risks on certain projects," she says. "The rewards of having the opportunity to raise, mold, and love a child in such an influential way are well worth it for me."

Time – enough time and the right time – to produce art is a deep-rooted theme for artists with children.

“I wanted to be a writer all my life, but for some reason I decided to wait until I had two small children and absolutely no time to do so," says Dana Bowman, of Lindsborg, Kan., who humorously relates her experiences about parenthood and sobriety in a blog called momsieblog.

Ashley Lande, a visual artist based in Kansas City, Mo., says her biggest challenge is stirring up creativity with a fixed schedule. 

"Before children, I could ease into art-making," says Lande. "And now my time is always limited and set so I must get to work quickly, so in a way that’s been good for discipline." As her two children grow out of the toddler phase, she anticipates finding more opportunities for "daydreaming, visualizing, etc. that precede art-making."

Many artists talked about discovering some of the unexpected benefits of being a parent. 

"I am more fulfilled and challenged at the same time," says Ari Fish, a clothing designer and multimedia artist in Kansas City, Mo. "The depth of love I feel on a day to day is quite immeasurable."

Writer Dana Bowman puts it like this: "My life has been whittled down, then embellished; broken apart, then strengthened, all by my little wisdom-makers, my children." 

Finding a balance and accepting change were common topics, as well as adjusting expectations.

Credit courtesy Amy Kligman
courtesy Amy Kligman
Artist Amy Kligman says her son, Sam (pictured here), is a fixture at weekly meetings and events at PLUG Projects, an artist collaborative in the West Bottoms, Kansas City, Mo.

"Everything takes longer, everything is harder," says Amy Kligman, a creative strategist at Hallmark.

She and her husband, Misha Kligman, are visual artists, and co-founders of the artist collaborative Plug Projects in the West Bottoms. (Listen to more of their story from KCUR's Julie Denesha, as part of our ongoing series Artists as Parents). 

On juggling a studio practice and parenting a son, Amy Kligman says, "We stay exhausted but have more moments of a particular kind of joy and accomplishment." 

Brett Reif, associate professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, says, "You can't do it all. You have to pick and choose and prioritize." Reif and his wife, composer Mara Gibson, are raising one son.

"The rewards are that with all of these activities, you feel full," he says. "It's like gumbo. Lots of flavors make for a complex and rewarding dish. Life is not the same and certainly, not boring." 

TELL KC: If you’re an artist, how has having a child or children affected your work? Click here to tell your story. Or become a source for our Tell KC network, a collaboration of KCUR and KCPT in Kansas City. 

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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