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Lawrence Arts Center’s ‘Making It Work’ exhibit pairs with Black Lunch Table events, portrays intersection of parenthood and artistry

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An art exhibit and accompanying programs at the Lawrence Arts Center this summer aim to share unique experiences of artists who balance both creative work and parenthood. 

Curated by Rachel Epp Buller, professor of visual arts and design at Bethel College and artist, and María Velasco, professor of visual arts at the University of Kansas and artist, “Making It Work” is an art exhibit centered on artists who are parents.

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Through the exhibit, artists and curators portray their experiences with the intersection of parenthood and artistry, encompassing all the challenges and beauty that come with those roles. Featured artists are Pilar Agüero-Esparza, Alberto Aguilar, Christa Donner, Lise Haller Baggesen, Cara Romero, and Jina Valentine.

Through July 29, the Lawrence Arts Center will host the art gallery and has several opportunities queued up for community members to engage in dialogue and learning.

“Making It Work brings together six contemporary artists from around the US whose familial bonds and extended caring communities creatively inform their artistic practices. Through drawings and prints, audio and photography, installation and participatory work, these artists engage the ties of kinship, tell stories across generations, posit caregiving as a political act, and develop community-minded initiatives for change,” according to an event page on the Arts Center’s website.

This series began in late May. Next up is a screening of a short film by filmmaker Jess Jacobs, called “Choices,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12. The showing of the 17-minute film, which is about a woman’s journey and choice regarding her pregnancy, will be followed by a community discussion moderated by actor and filmmaker Jess Jacobs and Women of Lawrence Film Co-Founder Laura Kirk. No registration is required to attend, and a cash bar will be available.

There will also be voter registration available at the event as Tuesday is the last day for Kansans to register to vote in the Aug. 2 election.

Mariah Seifert / Contributed Photo The Lawrence Arts Center’s large gallery room hosts the bulk of art in the “Making It Work” exhibit, as pictured above.

Supplementary programming along with Making It Work comes from Black Lunch Table, a nonprofit organization meant to unite local Black artists and creators and provide education. The organization hosts lunchtime sessions to allow Black community members to gather and learn from one another’s diverse backgrounds, professions, and areas of study or interest.

Black Lunch Table: The Artist’s Table, which was exclusive to Black people, was held virtually this past Saturday, July 9. Similar to The Artist’s Table but open to everyone, a community discussion event will be held virtually from 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. 

Black Lunch Table: The People’s Table discussions first came to Lawrence in 2014 as a response to the police killings of Black people, such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, in New York City, and as part of the initial Black Lives Matter movement to also fight back against the lack of accountability for those police officers.

The People’s Table is an opportunity to openly and honestly converse about “sociopolitical issues affecting historically disenfranchised populations” and offer solutions to eradicate institutional racism, according to the event page. Those interested in attending should register at this link. To otherwise support Black Lunch Table and Black artists, donations can be made to this link.

The national organization of Black Lunch Table was founded in 2005 as an oral history archiving project by Jina Valentine and Heather Hart. Valentine, an artist based out of Chicago, and Hart, an artist based out of New York, are also the current executive directors. To learn more about Black Lunch Table’s origin, current efforts, or archives of recorded past sessions, visit this link.

Curators Epp Buller and Velasco will also host a presentation at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 28. Epp Buller will share about her book, “Inappropriate Bodies: Art, Design, Maternity.” Those in attendance will also get to witness the first local screening of Velasco’s film, “All of Me: Artists+Mothers.” Registration is not required for that event.

Finally, there will be a closing reception from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, July 29 in the Arts Center’s large gallery room. Community members will be able to mingle with curators Epp Buller and Velasco and reflect on the exhibition.

In-person events will be located in the large gallery room at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., where the “Making It Work” exhibit will also be up throughout. All events are free to attend. 

The Arts Center worked in partnership with the Spencer Museum of Art. For more information about “Making It Work,” featured artists, and accompanying programs visit this link.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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