Back in August I mentioned a partnership of organizations working with the Broadway production of Here Lies Love to offer babysitting services to people attending select performances. What I hadn’t dug deeper into, but an NPR reporter did, was that one of the organizations, Parent Artist Advocacy League (PAAL), was started as a way to offer childcare services to artists.
PAAL founder Rachel Junqueira Spencer Hewitt characterizes the organization as essentially being staffed by artists for artists and says it started partially out of her own need for childcare.
Hewitt had struggled to balance an acting career with her growing family. She had to hide her pregnancy at auditions; once her child was born, she had to turn down work because the contracts paid less than a babysitter would cost.
“I saw my path to my career blocked because of the lack of support,” she said. “And I know that every industry has this dilemma of — if the child care costs more than my job’s able to pay, how can I still do this?”
PAAL advocates for parents in all sorts of ways, including giving grants for fertility costs to artists and presenting a Black Motherhood and Parenting New Plays Festival. But helping people in theater take care of their children is part of their core mission — an early initiative was hiring babysitters to watch children at auditions.
I had noted back in August that PAAL was opening chapters in other cities. From the NPR story, their expansion plans are based in facilitating the participation of both creators and attendees of different arts disciplines. (my emphasis)
Eventually, she would like to see the concept spread to orchestras, operas — even museums. She says it’s good for the organizations, who may see increased loyalty and gain new audiences; it’s good for the parent-artists who are supported; and it’s good for people who’d like to see an art exhibit or a play but can’t because child care is so expensive.
“People who appreciate the arts are engaged in the realities of life,” Hewitt said. “You say, ‘Gosh, I wish they would come to my show,’ without understanding, where are they right now? They’re in the car. They’re in the pick-up line [at school]. They’re listening to your ad promoting your gorgeous exhibit while they’re trying to schedule the soccer game.“