Friday Find: Pratfalls of Parenting

“We make cool stuff. We make people too. How has that affected you?  Along the way we try to stay creative types at the end of the day.” –The Pratfalls of Parenting theme song

pop-itunesI recently discovered the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast about life as a parent in the arts, and I’ve become a bit obsessed with the show.  I am far from being a working artist myself–that isn’t even on my map really–but that doesn’t matter.  The sense of camaraderie in the casual conversations between the artists in the podcast extends to the listener, and turns people whose names I see on advertisements for gallery shows or theater performances into real people whose struggles are not far off from mine.

All the interviews that I’ve listened to so far seem to circle back to the idea that you have to be you to be a good parent.  You might be able to put parts of you in the background at times, like when your kids are quite young, but you have to keep making things or whatever it is you are into.  For me that means writing and making zines.  For my husband, it means making music.  We’ve made these things priorities in our house, and it’s nice to know that there are other families out there who are making the same kinds of priorities we are.

But I don’t think you have to be some sort of artist to know the tension between keeping your pre-parent self alive and being a good parent, and I don’t think you have to be an artist to appreciate the Pratfalls of Parenting podcast.  For one thing, it’s a fascinating angle on the Twin Cities arts scene.  I’ve discovered so many artists and arts organizations in the few weeks I’ve been listening.  :)

Here are some of the highlights I’ve found so far:

  • Seniz Lennes (improvisor/actor/photographer) talks about parenting as part of her creative practice and the way that her work as an improvisor informs her parenting.  She blogs about this at Yes And Parenting.
  • Carolyn Swiszcz (painter/video maker) references children’s books as a great inspiration, and she mentions several illustrators in particular that she likes.  While I’m on the subject of books, I’ll also point out that Susannah Schouweiler mentions that having free reign of the library as a kid influenced her decision to become a writer and William Alexander (children’s book author) talks about writing, the book industry, and all sorts of other things kidlitgeeks like me love hearing about.
  • Jena Young  (comic/theater producer) brings up the topic of humor in that what is funny to kids is often not the same as what is funny to adults.  I wonder what she and host Levi Weinhagen (of all-ages theater company Comedy Suitcase) would think of my assessment of Kid Humor in picture books. ;)

I highly recommend the podcast to parents of all sorts, but especially to those who make stuff and make that a priority.

Let’s Talk about the Arts

Last week I listened to a Round Table conversation about art, and I found myself nodding vigorously at so much of what the guests were saying that I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to relate it to my areas of interest–books, libraries, & community.  Here are some of my thoughts on the discussion:

The librarian in me was interested in ways that people connect with art, including the idea of community spaces.  One of the guests said “The social spaces that art creates, they can be just as important as the art itself.”   Of course, many people think of libraries as quiet places with lots of rules, but I believe, and there are many, many librarians out there who also believe, that libraries can be vibrant social spaces to access or create art in various forms.

The mom in me wanted to applaud the notion that anyone can be an artist.  Scratch that.  That everyone is an artist.  Artists do not exist in a separate group that the rest of us watch.   We are all part of the show.  I love the way that technology has made so many forms of art so accessible to amateurs, and I am glad that my daughter is growing up in a world where creative aspirations are within her reach with a lot of hard work.  Frankly, I appreciate this on a personal level too.

While I’m not usually the girl in line for autographs or wharever, there is a fangirl in me that values digging for the stories behind the art that speaks to me.  This is why I seek out author blogs or look for sketches from my favorite picture book illustrators.  It’s why I follow authors on Twitter.  I want to know about the writing life in all its gory detail.  It doesn’t take away from the magic of the art.  It highlights the humanness of the endeavor in a way that makes it much more alive.

There are so many great examples of artists (of all sorts) and arts organizations doing the innovative work that the Roundtable guests discussed.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Open rehearsals.  I remember attending a couple of Elgin Symphony Orchestra Open Rehearsal events as a teen in my home town, and I thought it was fascinating.  A quick internet search brought up several large orchestras that do similar programs, especially for kids.  What better way to see what being a professional musician is like than to see the preparation that goes in to performance?  
  • Blogging Your Blocks.  Publicizing one’s creative frustrations might seem like the last thing anyone wants to do in the world, but I’ll use Veronica Roth as an example here.  Her wildly popular book Divergent resulted in the opportunity to write a sequel (then turn it into a trilogy), and she’s been blogging her experiences as she continues the story.  Not only am I anticipating the next book more after reading her creative journey (as if it were possible for me to anticipate it more), but also there’s a deeper connection to the story and to the author now.
  • Reinventing spaces.  The Chattanooga Public Library launched a public laboratory space focused on connecting people to the production and sharing of knowledge.  Here in Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center’s Open Field is a summer time creative space for anyone interested in the arts.  There are all sorts of programs and plenty of supplies (and a Little Free Library) free for use when the weather is nice.    Then there’s Northern Spark.  This night-time festival reinvented the entire city as an interactive art gallery.  Absolutely amazing.

How have you connected with the arts in the past year or so?  Have you seen any really interesting opportunities to connect with art or artists?  What would you like to see?

Monday Morning Music: Birthday Edition

Hey, everyone! It’s my birthday this week. :)

Here’s my birthday request for you:  I know there are many, many good causes out there, but I’m asking you to remember to support the arts–especially local arts.  Consider contributing to these Kickstarter projects (or use the search feature to find projects in your own community!):

  • Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles are looking for funding for a new album.  They say, “We’re hoping to release this baby in late April 2012 and then tour it all around the country in the summer and fall. We want to share our music with as many folks as possible, so as part of this kickstarter we’re hoping to raise funds to promote the record in print and radio in the places we visit.”
  • Communist Daughter & Moving Walkway Productions want to make a music video.  They say, “We – Moving Walkway Productions — are making a music video for a remarkable band called “Communist Daughter.” Although they have been around the Minneapolis scene, they are on the verge of going national. In order to provide that all-important rockin’ video as a public face, they need a high quality music video to show their stunning talent.”
  • The Desert Vest is hoping to release their debut album. They say, “The Desert Vest is an alternative rock trio from Minneapolis. We are hammering out our debut album. You may have seen our name on many local lists of bands to see or heard samples of us on the radio. Our progress as a band can only last for so long without a tangible album.”

And because I can’t resist anything children’s book related, I must include this:

  • Think and Wonder, Wonder and Think is a project by Minneapolis artist that will put this Dr. Seuss quotation in lights along the Stone Arch bridge for the Northern Spark Arts Fest. She says, “My project will light the Stone Arch Bridge with the theme of Northern Spark, a short quote by one of my favorite authors and artists, Theodore Geisel, known to most as Dr. Seuss. The phrase THINK AND WONDER, WONDER AND THINK will span both sides of the bridge in the form of illuminated sign text and will be on display for the week leading up to the festival, turning off at sunrise on the morning of Sunday, June 10th.”  You might have seen Robin Schwartzman‘s children’s book inspired work around town before.  Ladybug and I encountered it at a family program at the Walker Art Center last year.

I’d love to see Dr. Seuss in lights, and I think Robin Scwartzman is just the artist to make it happen.

Along the way….

As we walked around Uptown after the HandmadeMN Market on Saturday, we saw this Little Free Library in front of the Soo Visual Arts Center.  Read more about it here.

We also stopped in at the open house at Intermedia Arts, which featured youth created art of all varieties.  So nice to have these great organizations in the neighborhood!