Mother Artist Network: Sarah Neville

 Surely the creative sector is an ideal place to explore alternative forms of life and work that can bring children back into the warp and weft of creative life… (foam)

Sarah Neville is an Australian choreographer and director who recently enjoyed/braved an experience as artist in residence with her new baby at foam in Istria, Linz, Brussels. Here she shares the journey:

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Working as an independent artist means that I can organize work around my own availability and creative focus and thanks to foam and their very generous family in residence program I travelled to Europe with five month old Florence in tow. We spent a week in a mini castle in Istria near the legendary city of Motovun, participated in a futurists meeting at Time’s Up Austria and ended by consolidated our residency at foam headquarters in Brussels. Throughout, Florence was great company.

In my experience working in the arts cannot by design be a selfish pursuit, so there has not been a giant shift in perspective in my life now that I am responsible for a baby. My work has always depended on working closely with other artists, whilst simultaneously working one or two full-time jobs outside of the arts to support my practice. It goes without saying that if I didn’t always have a sense of others in the world then collectives would fail, partnerships dissolve and collaborations would bomb. Often my paid work has included caring for other people’s children, so having Florence with me as I work is a familiar challenge and joy. During my residency, Florence’s smile, giggle and attentive observation of the world were a delight. My journey was enriched by her look of awe and at Dubai airport, her cooperation in falling asleep anywhere, her ability to laugh at anything, her loud and confident contribution to all serious arts discussions with her own baby babble and her amusement in waking up amongst changeable scenery day in and day out and often night in and night out.

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My residency was structured to include my whole family so my husband Matt experimented with sound and our daughter Miranda sent drawings and stories in response to the creative content generated, remotely. Foam founders and collaborators Nik Gaffney and Maja Kumonovic, not only contributed creative ideas but picked up the ‘hard to do with a baby in your arms’ tasks like note taking and documenting. I am not sure what I would have done without any of them. All in all I am arriving home with much gained. For Florence, a sense of herself in a larger world, a love of travel and the knowledge that the world is full of creative and strong personalities who are envisaging a fantastic future. For Miranda, that wherever I am I cherish her involvement in my work. For Matt, that creative collaboration is part of the glue of our relationship, whether that is formalized in an artistic collaboration or the creative stuff of flexible parenting. I am forever grateful to Matt because he nudged me out the door of our cozy house in the Adelaide hills with the words “off you go, this is what Sarah Neville does.”  For me, high quality art making takes fabulous teams of people working together seamlessly, the same goes with creative parenting and a workable family life. It is not always easy but when it works then relationships deepen, extraordinary lives are lived and astonishing art is created.

Read more stories of this incredible residency.

on Jan 17, 2014

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