Museum of Motherhood recognizes mothers of all ages

Run by February 2012 and check to see that it’s still up.

Take your shoes off and enter the Museum of Motherhood. Casts of bosoms and bellies painted with florals, silver studs, and swirly patterns grace the walls of the new museum that honors and praises mothers.

Joy Rose, 54, mother of four, musician and activist, is the founding director of the Museum of Motherhood in New York City, the first museum of its kind to bring educational programming and passion to women of all ages.

“Until now, there hasn’t been a museum that talks about the all-inclusive concept of motherhood,” she said. “I think that mother studies and the role of motherhood through the ages in pop culture … and art, and through the continual motherhood experience is the cutting edge of the modern women’s movement.”

The museum is a “pop-up” based in a loft-style, 2,500 square foot space in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and is in a test drive period for four months. The museum hopes to have enough funding to continue after that time.

Artwork from various female artists, including Alexia Nye Jackson and Ronnie Kamarow, are displayed on the walls. A sense of girl power permeates the open space, complete with comfy couches for women to gather to talk, relax and work while their little ones crawl around in the nearby play area.

Women are encouraged to write on the “Write Out Loud Wall,” a chalkboard wall with “grief-itti” where women can vent and scrawl out empowering messages to each other.

There are historical exhibits with statistics on wage discrepancies between men and women, posters with medieval birth practice information and photos from the women’s rights movement. Engaging films roll throughout the day, and music is always playing.

Rose and her cause are infectious; she is funky and spiritual, with clear maternal instincts and a lot of energy. She and her enthusiastic team host workshops, concerts, networking events and programming for children, including a daily story time. The museum is partnered with Goodwill Industries International Inc., Gymboree and Working Mother Magazine.

One of the goals of the museum is to make women aware and open their eyes to the mothering experience, Rose said.

“We’re only successful if we reach out to more than just grandmas and moms,” Rose said. “We want to be reaching into the minds of young people pre-conception, because if we’re in your bones and your psyche, mother studies will already be a part of you.”

Rose is working constantly to develop the space through educational programming and advocacy in the New York community.

“We have to ultimately aspire to be more than just a family space. We are a very nurturing, healing, honoring place for these women,” she said.

The museum is open to everyone, including men and nannies, but it is mainly for women.

“Motherhood is leadership. It’s an empowering spin on a disempowered role,” she said. “Mothers are the leaders of their family, children and community, but that’s not how we’re taught to think. Every mother is a working mother.”

Jill Starishevsky, an assistant district attorney in the Bronx working in the child abuse and sex crimes bureau, is a mother of three and supporter of the Museum of Motherhood. She comes in regularly with her 8-month-old daughter.

“Being at the museum, surrounded by the exhibits, as well as being surrounded by other moms, it’s reminded me what an incredibly valuable job I have,” she said. “I’m creating a life, but I’m also trying to mold and sculpt the lives of my children and make them into wonderful people, and that is a huge responsibility.”

Mothers who come to the museum enjoy the social aspect and benefit from networking with each other in the midst of balancing their careers and family lives, Starishevsky said.

“I think one of the best things about the museum is that you’re networking with moms from all different walks of life. Through the museum, I’ve met educators and people from the medical field and businesswomen. You really just get a great cross-section and how they’re able to balance. You can learn from one another. It’s an amazing place, and I’m excited to watch it grow.”

Lauren Gold is a member of the Medill News Service

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