Designing Motherhood: Things That Make and Break Our Births explores the arc of human reproduction through the lens of art and design. The exhibition examines the evolution of rights and societal norms connected to contraception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum experiences over the last 150 years, highlighting that birth—and the culture that surrounds it—impacts every living person. While being born is a universal human experience, the designs that shape it are not. Designing Motherhood invites you to consider why and how we have developed designs to facilitate reproductive health.
Featuring over 200 objects, this exhibition brings together a unique collection of contemporary artists and designers whose work helps us ponder the political, economic, and social implications of how we all relate to reproduction, juxtaposing photography with product design, maternal and newborn health innovations, maternity fashion, and much more.
This exhibition was organized by the Designing Motherhood curatorial team in collaboration with the Discovery Center at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In Seattle, the project thought partners are the Designing Motherhood advisory committee: Amie Bishop, Senior Research Advisor for OutRight Action International; Angela Garbes, Seattle-based writer and author of Like A Mother (2018); Ari Robbins Greene, proud dad to two children; Dr. Cyril Engmann, Senior Director of Quality and Program Impact and Institutional Official at PATH; Dila Perera, Executive Director at Open Arms Perinatal Services; Mercedes Snyder, owner of Something Beautiful Midwifery; and Rebecca Mauldin, Director of Communications & Development at ChildStrive.
In Philadelphia, the project’s thought partner was Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) who ensure families can birth with dignity, parent with autonomy, and raise babies who are healthy, growing, and thriving.
In Boston, the project’s thought partner was the Neighborhood Birth Center (NBC) which will open in 2024 as the first-of-its-kind birth center in Boston with the vision of improving birth experiences and outcomes, across communities, for generations.
MassArt Art Museum (MAAM), the Mütter Museum, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and Design, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, were vital to the development of the Designing Motherhood exhibition.
Major support for Designing Motherhood’s initial presentation and publication was provided to the Maternity Care Coalition by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.