Last Thursday, April 28th was National Take Your Child to Work Day. Carolyn McKecuen, president of the Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation, stated on the organization’s website (www.daughtersandsonstowork.org) that “exposing girls and boys to what a mentor does during the work day is important, showing them the value of their education, discovering the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and sharing how they envision the future.”
People toted their young ones into the office, giving them toy calculators to help with numbers and putting them on paper-shredding duty. Artists might not have any faxes to send or conference calls to make, but plenty is there to be passed on. So how do they involve their children when it comes to their careers?
“I read that Picasso let his children run around as they pleased in his workspace, and I allow the same,” painter Wendy Kowalski shares. “Blaze is often painting beside me or hammering things together.”
“Kingsley has been helping with the goldleafing quite a bit,” painter Sullivan Dunn says of her young daughter. Dunn says she used to take Kingsley to the studio with her, but after having her second child, she works mostly from home. There, both kids get a front row seat to their mom’s artistic endeavors. “They enjoy watching and giving advice on what I should make next,” she says.
“Aidan is proud of me and my work,” says Michelle Connolly of her 7-year-old son. “He often tells his friends, ‘My mom is an artist.’ Both of my boys, Aidan and 4-year-old Rory, are a constant source of inspiration to me.”
Connolly’s children are often the subjects of her paintings, and she says they like to help create the works, too. “Having a studio to work in has really benefited me and the boys, as we can make art and not be too concerned about the paint on the floor!” she says.
“Being a single mom of three for the past 15 years, my kids, now graduates, have been ceaselessly exposed to my creativity,” Bonnie England, owner of Projekte says. “My son, Britton, has helped hold boards together while stretching canvasses.”
Gabriel Lehman makes sure that both his sons have a job when it comes to his work. “They help in so many ways,” he says. “They are not only inspiration but also help keep a child-like attitude about art and life.” Lehman’s son Donovan is 14 and helps dad build the canvases while 7-year-old Connor makes sure frequent stretch breaks are taken. “I’m a better artist because of them, without a doubt,” he says.
Wicked Gallery owner Christina Cole says her 4-year-old daughter “draws and paints constantly. I already have footlockers full of her artwork.” Cole says the environment seems to inspire her child. “She can sit in the gallery and fill a sketchpad with ridiculously meaningful work in a couple of hours; not just stick figures but actual full delighting of her surroundings and its detailed description of why it is.”
Yet it’s not all fun and imagination. Other artists’ offspring have progressed into the business side of their parents’ jobs. “My youngest daughter, Brooke, and I collaborated on paintings together and split the profits 50/50,” says England. “My oldest daughter has worked shifts at the galleries; Projekte now and before, Bottega [Art and Wine].”
Cole says her daughter “just became a part of the art space. She even sold a piece or two,” she says.
Whether learning to express their inner colors or learning the time and effort required to make a profession out of art, Wilmington’s next creative generation is sure to keep the town afloat in imagination and beauty. “Since they’ve been constantly surrounded by my creative energy, they now have their own,” says England.
Connolly adds that she, along with the rest of the community, can in turn benefit from watching the spiritual inhibition that comes with childhood. “I can learn a lot from them,” she says. They have a free, brave approach and great imaginations.”