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The MassArt Art Museum Announces Designing Motherhood

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A Critically Acclaimed Exhibition That Explores Birth as Both Universal and Unique Through an Investigation of Design and Contemporary Art. On View June 11 – December 18, 2022.

Boston, MA – Thursday, April 7, 2022 – The MassArt Art Museum (MAAM) announces its next exhibition, Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births, on view June 11 – December 18, 2022 in the Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery on the first floor of the museum. Organized by a curatorial team that includes design historians, birth advocates, and medical and midwifery history experts, Designing Motherhood explores the arc of human reproduction through the lens of design and art from the 19th century to the present day. The display of nearly 200 works includes historic and contemporary breast pumps, baby monitors, forceps, and maternity clothes, alongside vintage advertisements, and contemporary art across media. The exhibition demonstrates the evolution of rights and societal norms pertaining to con(tra)ception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences over the last 150 years, highlighting that birth – and the material culture that surrounds it – impacts every living person. Designing Motherhood at the MassArt Art Museum will bring together, for the first time, the art and design works exhibited at two previous venues and will incorporate work by five additional contemporary artists – Joan E. Biren, Jess Dugan ‘07, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ani Liu, and Tabitha Soren – who join a rich group of contemporary and historic artists and designers tackling subjects and ideas related to the topic at hand.

Designing Motherhood is a perfect exhibition for MAAM,” said Lisa Tung, Executive Director of the MassArt Art Museum. “As the teaching museum for a pre-eminent art and design college, we are thrilled that we can simultaneously showcase design history while highlighting the work of contemporary artists, addressing a subject matter that impacts everyone yet is not openly addressed.”

Aiming to interrogate traditionally gendered narratives of parenthood, as well as racial and socio-economic disparities in access to care, the exhibition centers experiences of (in)fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood grouped in thematic sections including Milk, Means of Reproduction, Postpartum, Temporary Bodies, and Midwives. The exhibition features objects that monitor fertility and baby sleep cycles, birth furniture and nasal aspirators, and the material culture surrounding our relationship to our own bodies, including contraception designs, childfree literature, and a self-exam mirror. Works by contemporary artists and designers augment these conversations, including MassArt alum Jess T. Dugan’s photography which explores their experiences of queer parenting; jewelry maker Maria Eife’s decorative breast pump flanges; woodworker Alison Croney Moses’ sculpture of her pregnant belly; and Ani Liu’s installation of the labor involved in producing human milk.

“This project examines one of the most fundamental experiences in life—being born. We started the Designing Motherhood project in 2017 to confront the large gap around this topic in the collections and classrooms where we work, as well as in culture more broadly,” says the curatorial team. “Motherhood is not just a ‘women’s issue.’ This exhibition is for everyone because we’re all born and thus all shaped by these things that ‘make and break our births.’ We are so grateful the MAAM team has welcomed and supported the project and we can’t wait to share it with New England audiences.” 

The exhibition originated in Philadelphia at the Mütter Museum and the Center for Architecture and Design where the curatorial team partnered for three years with the pioneering Maternity Care Coalition, who have worked since 1980 to empower families navigating reproductive health, pregnancy, and early childhood in that city. In Boston, MAAM and the Designing Motherhood team are proud to partner with Neighborhood Birth Center (NBC) as the lead thought partner for this presentation, an organization whose mission is to offer comprehensive community-based midwifery care by integrating an independent and freestanding birth center in Boston’s healthcare and community landscape. 

“It is exciting to be supported by partners, like the Designing Motherhood and MAAM teams, who understand that design – of space and policy alike – is not neutral. As inequity has been designed, justice and healing can also be designed,” said Nashira Baril, Neighborhood Birth Center Project Director. “NBC has always been a project of radical reimagination, and being a part of Designing Motherhood, in this way, invites us to be in reflective and re-imagine space with a community of artists, curators, and students.” 

The Designing Motherhood book, a 344 page volume published by the MIT Press, accompanies the project. Major support for the overall project was originally provided to Maternity Care Coalition by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia, with additional support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. A rich set of public programs is being planned, including connections between the exhibition content and MassArt curriculum.

Connect with the MassArt Art Museum @maamboston on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Follow the Designing Motherhood project on Instagram @designingmotherhood.
Follow Neighborhood Birth Center on Instagram and Facebook @Neighborhoodbirthcenter and Twitter @BirthcenterBOS.

MAAM Hours & Admission

Summer General Admission Hours starting June 11, 2022

  • Thursdays: 12-8pm
  • Fridays: 12-5pm
  • Saturdays and Sundays 10am-5pm

Always free; ticketing will open two weeks prior to the opening date.

Where

MassArt Art Museum
621 Huntington Avenue (Avenue of the Arts)
Boston, MA 02115
Public Transportation

  • MBTA Green Line E Train (Longwood Medical Area stop)
  • Route 39 MBTA bus (Huntington Ave @ Longwood Ave stop)

For more information about exhibitions, museum hours and COVID-19 protocols, please visit maam.massart.edu.

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Media Contact

Susie Stockwell
Director of Public Relations, Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt)
sstockwell@massart.edu

About the MassArt Art Museum

The MassArt Art Museum (MAAM) is Boston’s only free contemporary art museum. After extensive renovations, MAAM opened in February 2020 in the space formerly known as the Bakalar & Paine Galleries at the heart of MassArt’s campus on the Avenue of the Arts. MAAM is a kunsthalle, or non-collecting museum, showing temporary exhibitions that feature the work of emerging to established artists to bring fresh and varied perspectives to Boston. As MassArt’s teaching museum, MAAM is a resource for MassArt students and faculty, educating students about contemporary art, partnering with faculty to support the curriculum, and preparing students for careers in the museum field. As an extension of the College’s public mission, the Museum offers pathways to education in the arts and free, unique educational programming for the public.

About MassArt

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) is a public, independent institution that prepares artists, designers, and educators to shape communities, economies, and cultures for the common good. Since 1873, MassArt has built a legacy of leadership as the first freestanding public college of art and design in the country, and the nation’s first art school to grant a degree. MassArt offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in art, design, and art education, taught by world-class faculty.

About Neighborhood Birth Center

Neighborhood Birth Center (NBC) will open as Boston’s first independent and freestanding birth center in 2023, with the vision of improving birth experiences and outcomes, across communities, for generations. NBC’s mission is to offer comprehensive midwifery care, in a setting rooted in relationships and community. The non-profit center is led by Black and Brown people and will be staffed by licensed midwives and offer a full range of prenatal, pregnancy, and birth care options in a luxurious facility that includes three birthing suites designed for maximum comfort and safety. With a site designed by the acclaimed Boston-based MASS Design, it will also be co-located with other social justice and wellness organizations, allowing for shared spaces, services, and resources.

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621 Huntington Ave,
Boston, MA 02115

(617) 879-7000