an open letter

Dear undervalued, over-tasked, ambitious Maintenance Artists across all professions and life-roles…

Mothers, managers and careworkers of all kinds: librarians, doctors, nurses, homemakers, cleaners, operations leaders and administrators holding it down at companies of all sizes, gardeners and growers, support staff in every department, front line service workers, behind-the-scenes compliance, accounting and HR team members, data stewards and analysts, lawyers, facilitators, change managers, relationship maintainers, and more…

I’m thinking about you —

  • How much you do, how much it takes for you to do what you do.
  • How unseen, uncelebrated, and unsupported it often is.
  • How much you love what you do.
  • How overwhelming it can be.

Whatever happens next in our unpredictable, precarious world, isn’t the joy of being the point of it all?

The Society of Maintenance Artists

I am proposing an art & conversation space dedicated to the well-being of Maintenance Artists in all phases of development; it centers the lived experiences of women; it’s for us here and now, for our future selves and future world.

Let’s follow the lead of pioneer Mierle Laderman Ukeles, an avant-garde artist and new mother, who - in a burst of frustration and vision - wrote the Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!, and broke open the avant garde of Care. Care as an artistic practice. Not just within the artworld, but in our personal lives, in society, and for the earth. Maintenance work, while repetitious and often boring, is the engine that runs everything, every system, machine, business, relationship, house, neighborhood, country, familythat we care about.

…Let’s call it the Society of Maintenance Artists (SoMA).

I have some ideas about what this could look like. It won’t be a secret or a salve. It will be what gets generated through nourishing experiences…multi-faceted, imaginative, alive.

It’s grounded in art, and what art-experiencing can bring to your being: ideas you never had, or that you’ve been hanging onto and never said; art (not just visual art) can provide mirrors and comfort; and art can ask questions (large and small) that we need to ask ourselves and each other — in order to live well. Art opens portals inside us.

It lives between us in conversations. I’ve been thinking a lot about personal maintenance art since pandemic lockdown and have collected an initial list of topics to get us started—

unhurried conversation experiences that I will facilitate with the help of art and maintenance artists (like you).

What makes you a Maintenance Artist?

While we play a wide range of roles, often multiple roles, what we have in common, is that we are doers: doers who think about the quality of our work broadly. We are concerned, not just with output, but also with the impact we have along the way, and how to make things better for the people and places we care about. Care is at the core of it all. And care is not just a feeling. It happens over time and repetition. Care is active, effortful, creative.

And so, to be good at what we do, to keep on and keep up with it all, and to tap into unhurried joy wherever possible in the midst of it all, we need space to grow our personal capacities, to better understand what is sustainable and how to adapt to it, and especially: to explore what makes us come alive.

Research is underway…

Curious? Sign up to receive invitations to events, and opportunities to talk, to be heard, and to follow along.

Feeling seen? How about an interview? We’re looking to better understand how we can make the Society of Maintenance Artists community valuable for current and future members.

If this conversation resonates for you, sign up to be an interview candidate. We’ll send you a brief email screener survey to confirm this is a fit. And, if we go forward with an interview, we’ll be talking about your curent priorities, goals, and aspirations on your terms. So, there is nothing to know and nothing to prepare. If you have any questions, feel free to ask along the way.

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Next up

An intro to Maintenance Art, with much thanks to Mierle Laderman Ukeles.

I hope to hearing from you,
Alex (Alexandra Jacoby)