Open Letter to Ox-Bow

“The gear of a Traveling Artist Mama” 2016, the sad aftermath of preparing for Ox-Bow course titled “Me As Material”

An Open Letter to Ox-Bow from Michelle Murphy

Chicago, IL

August 1, 2016

Dear Ox-Bow, Artists, Arts Administrators, Friends, Mamas,

I am an artist, grad student at SAIC, and new mama living in Chicago.

Yesterday I traveled to Ox-Bow (Art College Courses and Residency Program in Michigan). I was prepared to create new work, and learn new things amongst the incredible opportunity to take a 2-week college photo and video course with artist instructor Jennifer Sullivan, “Me As Material” at Ox-Bow.

It is/was incredibly unfortunate that I was asked to leave (yesterday) on the first day from Ox-Bow against my will or intention. I am deeply saddened and feel I was turned away unjustly. I believe that I have every right to receive the same educational experiences and opportunities as my peers at SAIC and at Ox-Bow despite having a newborn.

This specific course I enrolled in “Me As Material” with Jennifer Sullivan relates to creating work from the personal narrative with humor, etc.  Which is why I thought making photo, video, and sound works with my newborn child…who is healthy and already well adjusted to my ambitious art-making schedule (i.e. sleeping through the night, not loud or disruptive, and happily attached to my body in a bjorn) would be welcomed or at the least accepted. I can’t underscore enough how this particular course work relates to my current studies and its obvious connection to exploring personal life as content or narrative.

There is no written policy excluding children on any Ox-Bow materials or website. In fact, there were children present on campus, and I was told by many past residents that many Faculty in the past have brought their children seemingly without an issue.

I explained to the directors at Ox-Bow that their lack of written policy as well as my preparedness to take the course and to seamlessly take care of my infant’s needs by simply stepping away for short breaks when needed to feed or change my baby. As I told the Ox-Bow directors/staff I am fully prepared to take this incredible course, and to create new work amongst my peers in the studio there, and I had all corresponding equipment needed for my success and for my infant’s care in the process. I purchased all of the necessary gear associated with a smooth transition (and this is would be my 3rd art making trip with my infant this summer).

*See the attached photo I took this morning showing all of the gear I had in order for my success as an artist student and mama at Ox-Bow.

I received a merit-based scholarship through my grad program of $4,581 to attend this summer course. I was responsible for paying for a living expense and fees of $1,100; the living expense included my request for a private room and their prepared meals. Knowing that this merit scholarship will not be extended to me in the future (I anticipate graduating this Spring), I feel this is my responsibility to utilize this resource/opportunity during this specific time in my academic and career development. I am capable of doing the work and being a mama. There are plenty of faculty and students in my cohort that have been understanding and supportive while I continue to surprise them through my commitment to making and participating in school, and in the art world at large.

Ox-Bow please re-consider your decision and allow me to prove that I am a fully capable and respectful artist, student, and mama.

Sincerely and in concern for all Artist Mamas wanting equal educational opportunities,

Michelle Murphy