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Artists juggle demands of work and art

MIT Tech Talk asked several "artists behind the desk" how they balance their MIT work lives with their artistic lives. Here's what they said:

"I always keep something that reminds me of poetry somewhere in eyeshot. My screen-saver is a quote from the movie The Public Enemy, where James Cagney's mother is on his case about getting a job -- all the ones he finds aren't good enough. He says to her, 'What do you want me to do, stay at home all day and write poems?' This reminds me that one kind of work supports the other -- each keeps me going in a different way."
-- Andrea Werblin, acquisitions assistant, MIT Press; author.

"I use tapes extensively and learn repertoire on the commuter train, and I listen to voice lesson tapes while I drive and while I wash dishes."
-- Laura Doughty, administrative assistant in electrical engineering and computer science; mezzo-soprano.

"I use vacation time to go to summer workshops or take classes. At least here at MIT there are a lot of people who are working artists as well as employees, and there is a sense of support."
-- Donna Mulholland, administrative assistant, CopyTech Centers; photographer and print maker.

"There isn't enough time for writing, work and family. Then you have to add the need for sleep, food and exercise into the equation. What keeps it all afloat is that I love all of them passionately. Being a mom ties it all together for me: filling me with joy and frustration and hope, and providing endless writing material. I no longer strive for balance, at least not on a daily basis."
-- Eve Diana, administrative assistant, Department of Chemistry; writer.

"I find that my artistic life intrudes very little on my work, but that my work really affects the way I sing. When I hear some of my musical colleagues talk about doing nothing but practicing, auditioning and performing, I feel as if I should find a patron and jump the MIT ship."
-- Nancy Leinonen Howells, administrative assistant, Alumni Association; soprano.

"I spend many lunch hours planning rehearsals and making costumes."
-- Kelley Donovan, senior secretary, Sloan School; dancer.

"What is balance when it comes to passion? Doesn't one become consumed with what truly enlightens and enrapts the soul? Some things have to suffer, and this is very evident by merely stepping into the foyer of my small home."
-- Patti Fitzpatrick, administrative assistant, Sloan School; singer.

"I can't say that I have found a way to balance them yet. I am searching for that happy medium between exhaustion from staying up too late to finish a project and the knowledge that my life is less rich without the creative challenge that project provides. Having one's priorities straight is a key part of the solution. And being able to separate your work life from your 'other' life is also important."
-- Judith Radovsky, administrative assistant, Copy Technology Centers; visual artist.

"I can't work as hard as I want on my artistic projects. But my work schedule forces me to use my time efficiently and gives me an excuse to cut some artistic projects that were turning stale. Best of all, MIT is providing me with a venue in which to sing."
-- Marion Leeds Carroll, senior secretary, aeronautics and astronautics, soprano.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 24, 1997.

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