What: A for profit, cross-disciplinary, social practice to investigate the interweaving of creative practice and family life founded by Rebecca Niederlander and Iris Anna Regn
Where: Based in Los Angeles
When: Founded in 2009
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A lot has been said about the intersection of art and commerce, but what about the intersection of art and family life?
This is the focus for BROODWORK, who have pursued this question through extensive work with creative institutions including OTIS College of Art and Design, The Santa Monica Museum of Art, Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design, and the Herman Miller Company.
“The convergence of family and practice is recognized by BROODWORK as a pivotal influence to produce profound and unexpected work,” said Regn. “How do we navigate extended families, transcontinental family extensions, the aging parent, the empty nest? Each of these stages of family life, and each way a creative person approaches them is a part of what we address in BROODWORK.”
The following interview was conducted by email. Some of the responses have been edited.
@LA_SMB: What was the inspiration for BROODWORK?
I.A.R.: The project came together when Rebecca and I were relatively new parents. For a Sundown Salon at Fritz Haeg’s called The Young Ones, visual artist Joyce Campbell and I co-organized an event about the work creative parents make for their children. I had work in the show with Tim Durfee, and also asked Rebecca to participate.
In discussions afterwards, Rebecca and I continued to examine parenthood and how it affected our professional life. We realized that we were intrigued by the influence of parenting on creative work, but specifically from the parents perspective. Those conversations were the beginning of BROODWORK.
@LA_SMB: How has your business grown and evolved since you first opened your doors?
R.E.N.: We’ve become even more clear about the importance for BROODWORK to reach audiences outside of our initial creative and familial community. Public art is a great framework for this because it allows us to bring our message to a wide and diverse population. It also allows us to actively engage with the city.
As such, we are delighted to announce our participation as part of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s “The Next Starts Now” pre-approved artists list for 2014-2016, so expect to see more public art in our County that reflects the family model. We are also collaborating with other like-minded artists including Christa Donner of Cultural ReProducers in Chicago and Jill Miller of ArtReach in the Bay Area in a new group called C3. We see these collaborations as critical to the furthering of our mission.
@LA_SMB: Why do so many artists find it hard to keep producing once they start families?
R.E.N.: Two things: One, because the existing models of creative practice are often all about giving 100% to the work. But I am a more productive artist now that I have a kid. I know that the time I have must be spent doing specific work. I often tell people though, that the early years are really only a tiny piece of the years of a creative practice. Once babies are in pre-school, and then kids in elementary school one has much more time.
This leads to the second thing, and a thing that BROODWORK does much advocacy for, flexible work time. The ongoing discussion we all have about work time flexibility, and the need for companies to acknowledge that telecommuting and flextime make for happier and more productive people would help creative families quite a bit.
@LA_SMB: Where will Broodwork be in 5 years?
I.A.R.: For one thing, we are working on a book. We expect to continue supporting the community we named in even greater capacity. Before we founded BROODWORK, we had – together or separately – worked with many of the City of LA’s agencies including Department of Cultural Affairs, Metro Arts, Los Angeles World Airports, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, as well as most major local museums, and many universities, colleges, high schools, and elementary schools. BROODWORK requires the ability to negotiate multiple methodologies, and use them to solve problems.
R.E.N.: This business has always existed outside the normal parameters of either a non-profit, the regular for-profit business, and a not-for-profit social practice within the art world. We are constantly defining and exploring with others how to be both socially responsible and fiscally strong. We expect that as the larger nomenclature of how business gets done expands, our model will become more of the norm. At least that is what we are working for, as this will be better for all and allow us to continue to support our families and our communities.
@LA_SMB: Why is your business a perfect fit for Los Angeles?
I.A.R.: Los Angeles County is an incredibly open place; we both came to Los Angeles in the mid-90s, and fell in love with all of the ways in which possibility manifests itself here. This openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things, which attracted us initially, continues to inspire us today. We imagine Los Angeles like a strong teenager, full of adventure and the belief that anything is possible. We’re honored to participate in shaping the region’s future.
R.E.N.: Since we are both transplants to Los Angeles, neither of us have any extended family within even this time zone, so we have worked to make a community amongst trusted friends and neighbors. Our experience is a common one here, where immigration is the norm and urban streets are often named for the crops that grew there as recently as 50 years ago. When we say we see city as an extension of family, it is about inspired connections amongst former strangers.
As a practice that continually explores the relationship between the professional life and the personal, BROODWORK continues to learn from how Angelinos navigate this terrain. We don’t think we would have invented this practice anywhere else.
@LA_SMB: What unique challenges does BROODWORK face?
R.E.N.: BROODWORK has now existed for five years influencing and encouraging this familial connection, and fostering an advantageous communal space that will stimulate innovation in others. Given the breadth of what we do, we find that a multi-layered community-based model that includes talking, blogging, designing, site-specific object creation, event-making, and curatorial installations works well. The diverse modalities of this project provide BROODWORK with a unique ability to bring together disparate communities through this lens of Family.
I.A.R.: BROODWORK is founded in the notion that family has a distinct place in making creative work. We see what is off-handedly referred to as an impediment to making good work as an inspirational and democratic impetus to creativity. Our works is focused primarily on adults and we are correspondingly family friendly, a fact which sometimes gets misunderstood as programming for children.
REN: Indeed! We often get requests to do programming just for children, and we usually decline those. When a proposal is about promoting the intergenerational community, then we get excited!
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