Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Artist Stacee Kalmanovsky

Stacee Kalmanovsky was born in Belarus in 1981, and immigrated to Chicago with her family as a child.  After graduating with her BFA from UIC, she moved to Florence, Italy, where she started a family.  She returned stateside in 2009 to attend the Masters of Fine Art program at the University of Chicago.  She currently lives and works in Hyde Park, Chicago.  For more information on Stacee's teaching studio visit  An online gallery of Stacee's work can be viewed at .

How many children do you have?  Boys? Girls?  How old are they?
I am the proud mother of two boys, 15 months apart!  Manuel is seven, and Oliver just turned six.

What was your plan for managing work and motherhood?  How did the plan square with reality? 
I was seven months pregnant on a step-ladder in Florence, Italy, working on my Rain installation at Ometti, an artist run design studio that has since shut down.  It was 2005, and I was 24. 

My plan was always to be an artist, and to be successful during my lifetime.  That kind of plan is always long term.  Becoming a mother has made me a more organized maker and planner.  That being said it could not be done with out a strong support system, family, friends, and neighbors.

"Stick with me, I'll show you how the world works."

What is your favorite thing about what you do? 
I wholly believe that art, all forms of it, brings deeper meaning into the world around us.  It is a practice of intention.  Our days whisk by us one after another speedily, but whether one is making art, or looking at art, there is a slowing down and widening that occurs on an intellectual level.  

Even if something affects us only visually, it is in contrast with everything else that is in our passive visual field, and that variation makes all the difference in the world.  I love that I am part of that conversation.

I am a dancer, but I consider myself fine art challenged.  What are some simple yet fun art projects I can do with a 2.5 and 4 year old at home?
Art is a safe zone to make a mess.  I would argue that free play is where it begins.  To allow our children the personal time to set their own worlds’ boundaries is essential.  I am often surprised by my children’s inventiveness, what fascinates and inspires them is often the simplest of things.  They can build a world of make belief from a ball of foil.  

That being said, from the age that my children could hold a spoon I put markers in their hands and paper in front of them.  Markers, washable and non-toxic, are far more saturated than crayons, and kept my toddlers busy on their highchairs while I cooked.  I showed them how to make lines and circles at first, and talked to them about colors, trying not to make any judgments about whether anything was good or right.  

Those preliminary drawing sessions made way for tuning their fine motor-skills and granted them independence to make creative decisions and choices.  (For the kids that have out-grown their highchairs, a large piece of paper, even cardboard, on the floor makes for a surface they can dive into).

As a teacher and a mom you know the arguments pro and con concerning free time and exposing children to a multitude of activities.  How do you navigate this issue with your own children?
I think free time is indispensable and necessary for a child’s psyche.  That is their time to take ownership of their universe and make meaning of the world around them individually.  I believe parents, myself included, rush their children into a flurry of activities.  What is important to keep in mind is not whether or not your child should be enjoying and gaining insight from what they are involved in, but whether they really are. 

Oliver and Manuel creating.

Do you have a favorite this-should-be-in-a-sitcom mommy story?
Well the sweet sappy moment in the sitcom would be me swinging on a playground swing very pregnant with Oliver, while Manuel is on my lap facing me, holding on and hugging us both.

But the funny sitcom moment would probably be the house growing quiet with mischief, and the mother, myself, finding two toddlers covered from head to toe in diaper cream.  Then trying to get it out with everything from baby oil to Pantene conditioner, but the only thing that worked the oil and zinc out of their massive hair was dish soap.

Diaper cream coiffure!  I'm just experimenting, Mom!

I love asking this question of artistic/academic parents. To TV or not TV?

For the little ones very little TV, and for school age kids TV as reward for a chore well done, or homework.  But I love cinema: popcorn and movies, and that can be wonderful cuddle and bonding time.  We love learning about animals in documentary style programs as well.

There are parents out there, well meaning ones, who are impressed when a three year old can identify an Impressionist work.  What does art appreciation mean for a preschooler?  For an elementary school student?

Our children absorb a lot from just being around us.  So if we do yoga in front of them, our little ones will stumble flawlessly into downward dog.  If we are in conversation with our children, than we are always pointing out the things we encounter in the world.  If I like a song on the radio, I will tell the children the musician’s name, and so it is with art.  Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the first paintings children encounter these days, whether it’s in “Baby Einstein” or on a birthday card.

All children are different, the important part is exposure at all ages, and that means taking them to the museums, and if at all possible even getting out of the kids play zone into the galleries for a brief look around.

While after school dance schools are everywhere, extra-curricular art studios for kids are rare.   Why is this?  What needs to happen for art to become more accessible? 

I wonder why that is.  I myself always went to art classes as a child. But that was all I wanted to do.  I do firmly believe that if you build it they will come, speaking of course of myself offering art lessons here in Hyde Park. Children are all natural artists, and express a lot fearlessly, and often in the most refreshing visual way.  Looking at and making art makes us more careful thinkers and observers of the world around us.  I believe it enhances our overall intelligence.  Art is a little like politics, it’s public and personal all in one.

Advice for artist moms?

Our happiness matters to our children as much as theirs matters to us.

Stacee and her sons enjoying Washington, D.C.

1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...