Art Mamas: Meet the Vancouver collective that creates community for mothers in the arts

Matilda Aslizadeh: "I see lots of parallels between art-making and parenthood — the strength, stamina and determination it takes."

'I see lots of parallels between art-making and parenthood — the strength, stamina and determination it takes'

Still from prOphecy sun's "Domestic Cupboards." (prOphecy sun)

The Art Mamas is a Vancouver collective made up of women juggling motherhood and artistic careers. It's part of an emerging trend to address the art world's tendency to sideline women with children.

"People take time off for sabbaticals, to travel or to get a degree, but taking time off to engage in something that builds character and deepens your knowledge, such as motherhood, is not valued in the same way," explains Art Mamas member Heather Passmore. "The assumption is that you won't continue with your work because you won't have time. But pregnancy itself raises all the biggest questions we know how to ask — things that relate deeply to religion and philosophy."

Watch the video:

Vancouver collective Art Mamas

5 years ago
Duration 4:18
Featured VideoThe nine women who make up the Art Mamas talk about the importance of supporting one another in both art and motherhood.

The collective is made up of nine artists at different stages of both motherhood and their careers who have been meeting regularly since the spring of 2016. In this video, you'll meet Passmore and fellow Art Mamas member Matilda Aslizadeh, who are both quick to point out the size and diversity of the collective — which also includes Robyn Laba, prOphecy sun, Sarah Shamash, Gabriela Aceves, Damla Tamer, Natasha McHardy and Maria Anna Parolin. They come together to create community, offer critiques and generally support each other. Discussions range widely from new creative directions and possible collaborations to history, politics and sundry personal matters.

Variants of Art Mamas are showing up across Canada as a new generation of women — one influenced by earlier waves of feminism but also by recent societal shifts — move through their reproductive years. Galleries, particularly artist-run centres, are also increasingly looking at the relationship between exhibiting art and the unrelenting emotional labour that's involved in nurturing a child. As Aslizadeh puts it: "I see lots of parallels between art-making and parenthood — the strength, stamina and determination it takes."

Painting from Heather Passmore's "Roman Charity" series. (Heather Passmore)
Still from Matilda Aslizadeh's "Moly & Kassandra." (Matilda Aslizadeh)
Sarah Shamash's collaboration with Gabriela Aceves Sepulveda and Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo "Aca Nada." (Gabriela Aceves Sepulveda/Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo/Sarah Shamash)

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.


Mark Mushet is a photographer, video producer and the creative director of Vancouver Review Media, an online publication featuring videos of interest to British Columbia's arts and cultural community.