Raising an Artist: Interview with my grandparents
Behind every artist is an encouraging herd of supporters. Our herd can include family, friends, teachers, counselors, mentors, partners—often growing and changing shape over time. Whether it’s my fellow staff members (many of whom are artists in their own right) or the artists we serve on the daily, I’m perpetually curious: who helped you become an artist? What support does an artist need from their community? And in turn, how does art sustain and strengthen a community?
I turned to my herd for answers. In a group interview with my biological grandmother, Momi, and my chosen grandparents, Kay and Art, we explore their experiences of my artistic journey. Interspersed throughout this interview, you will find quotes submitted by Fractured Atlas staff, with our parents' and caregivers' answers to the question, “what was it like to raise an artist?” We hope you enjoy this window into our own artistic journeys and the people who have made them possible.
It takes a village to raise an artist. What role do you feel you play in my village?
Kay: I wish I could say that I thought I played a big role. Your talent was there. I think we encouraged that by saying really nice things about your work because it deserves to have nice things said about it. Not to make you feel good, necessarily. I was thrilled to death when you came to stay with us and did sculpture [at Virginia Commonwealth University] for the summer. I remember thinking, “this is her pathway.”
Momi: I actually think this is a question you should answer, because you know better the role I played in your life.
Art: Yeah, I don’t know. I’m not sure if I played such a big role. And if you think I did, I so appreciate your thinking that.
Vicky: I think for you, Art, I see you as the most enthusiastic librarian I've ever had. I never had to pick one way of making art because you were always bringing me secondhand books about different kinds of art and different artists. Kay, you have always been this big ball of sunshine in my life. Whatever I did, you were cheering me on with the biggest smile. And with Momi—your role reminds me of an art historian. Your stories about your own sister and her path to becoming an artist and art teacher has helped me understand my own artistic path.
M: Supposedly my great grandfather was an artist, too!
What are your first memories of me as an artist?
K: This one was tough. It's not a first, it's more like—I can't remember a time when you didn't share your talent and didn't want to do something with it! Even your room growing up, the variety, the originality. It just always blew my mind to go into your room to see what you've done with it. Just like your apartment now, it’s the neatest thing I’ve ever seen. We always knew you were really on the right path.
A: She hasn’t stopped talking about your apartment, since we got into town.
K: In so much of what you do, I think of the word “fearless.” You really are just right out there. You're not afraid of anything. And the work that we saw exhibited or from art classes, I just. Wow.
Is there anything unique about raising an artist specifically?
A: Anything unique? Yes. It's worrying. It's a practical consideration. Worrying about what you're going to do with it when you pursue it. And can you make a living with it? It's not a question of whether you'll be happy with it, but worrying about your material future. Because nowadays you don’t have to go to college to make a really good living. You could have a trade, like plumbing, and be really rich. But simply put, to make a living and be satisfied. I think that's unique with raising a musician or an artist—you worry about job security, or the ability to get a job in the field.
M: For me, I think it's important to give a child the room and time to develop into itself. And of course, to trust in your own decisions. This is, I think, very important for an upcoming artist. To have trust. To trust your path and your decisions. It was important to me to give you this room and this time, and the divide between myself and yourself.
What art piece of mine do you remember most?
A: For me, it’s the hand you sculpted. What makes it stand out is just that I own it, I think. I'll check as soon as we get home but I think it's signed, too. It may not have been the best thing or the biggest or the brightest, but it's—I have a part of your art career. It just means a lot to me that I own a piece of your artwork.
K: The dress you made in high school was the most imaginative, outrageous, inventive, innovative thing. I mean, it’s just unbelievable that anybody could have made that out of recycled materials. It still amazes me every time I look at it. We still have the magazine lying in our living room, with the photo of your dress on the cover. And that's probably just the tip of the iceberg of what you do. In everything you do, it's never the same thing twice and it's not necessarily even the same medium. It's just always so different and so fresh. But the dress was the one that I remember.
M: Both of you named wonderful pieces. The one that touched me most is something you made when you were just starting elementary school. You came home one day—after just a week of class—and had made three fishes out of metal. You had poked some holes in them, so the light could shine through. And they are still hanging on my lampshade at home. For me, this little piece shows that you are talking and speaking through your art. You give people something through your art.
Thank you to all the contributors who helped make this collaborative article happen. Special thanks to my Fractured Atlas colleagues, for calling, texting, and sitting down with your family members. And my own family, for creating such a rich portrait of my own artistic journey. It truly does take a village.
About Vicky Blume
Vicky Blume is an arts worker based in New Haven, Connecticut. After moving to the city to study art and psychology at Yale, Blume lit up communications for a contemporary art gallery and a community art school. Most recently, she served as Creative-in-Residence at the New Haven Free Public Library's Tinker Lab. In her artistic practice, Blume builds interactive websites, animations, and installations that offer calming and consensual alternatives to the Attention Economy. At home, she is passionate about her houseplants but struggles to care for more sensitive plants. She aspires to create a home environment where every houseplant can thrive.