Kim Reid KuhnMay 03, 2014 09:27AM ● By Stefanie Monge
Between painting in her studio, teaching art lessons, running the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson, showing her work, and raising three children, Kuhn has become a master of time management.
And she always finds time to put her children first.
“I love my work,” Kuhn says. “I love what I do. I love advocating for artists. I like promoting people. I like booking shows. I like doing all of that, but my family comes first above everything else. I make sure that family is the first priority.”
Until two years ago Kuhn “unschooled” her daughter Zoe, 18, and sons, Ian, 13, and Ollie, 10. Kuhn believes in “life learning” vs. “institutional programming.” This approach provides more flexibility and allows children to develop a passion for “learning as a lifestyle,” she explains.
Kuhn went to work after she separated from her ex-husband and the kids went to school. Zoe graduated from Duchesne Academy and is now a freshman at the University of San Francisco. Ian and Ollie attend Montessori schools in Omaha. However, that hasn’t affected her ability to spend time instilling in them a sense of curiosity about the world, Kuhn says. “We try to really experience and enjoy life together.
“Kids need to be excited—not afraid—to explore the world,” she passionately exclaims. That’s not to say they should be left to completely fend for themselves. “My kids are very, very supported. We continually have dialogues and there are boundaries.”
Kuhn doesn’t see her role as the ‘authoritarian.’ “My job as a parent is to make a safe place for my children to be who they are and help them explore and encourage that,” Kuhn says. “We have a really fluid and easygoing home. Especially as a single parent, you have to be flexible and juggle things, like having to do this interview at the tattoo shop,” she says with a smile while her oldest son, Ian, waits to get his ears pieced.
Having an artist mother is definitely a unique experience, Ian says. “We can do art a lot more. We can just go downstairs and make something. It’s pretty special because we get to experience a lot of stuff other people don’t.”
“We don’t really buy toys,” Kuhn says. “We buy art objects or things for making. All of that’s been really important in their development.” Kuhn started buying her children sketchpads to use as “artistic journals” when they were young, and all three still use them. “Zoe has gone through book after book after book,” Kuhn says. “It’s so cool to look back. It’s like a visual diary.
“Whether these guys choose to go into the arts or not, I think growing up creative and having a lot of life experience is invaluable,” Kuhn says. “I think it’ll give them a different perspective on life and we really need to value that part of children. Creativity needs to be completely encouraged.”
Kuhn’s daughter seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps. Over Christmas break, she had a pop-up art show at Sweatshop Gallery that was well attended, Kuhn says. “The Omaha arts community is so supportive.”
Ian and Ollie like to create as well. Ian says his hobby is “just making stuff.” He recently combined two of his favorite pastimes when he deconstructed a skateboard and turned it into a chair at Bench, a collaborative workspace in Benson. “I like putting parts together.”
Younger brother Ollie says his latest masterpiece is a collection of clay animals filled with clay organs ready for dissection. He also likes to build with Legos, but he’d rather make his own designs than follow the instructions. “I like making it up myself more. I like being creative”.
Kuhn describes her process as an artist as “very intuitive” and driven by her interests. “I’m really adaptable, which is good for my work,” Kuhn explains. “But it’s also a great lesson for parenting. You just never know what’s going to come up.
“Being a parent has been the most difficult, most challenging thing,” Kuhn says. “But I mean, I would not be who I am without it.” It’s shaped her character more than anything else in her life, she says.
“What I’m working on now is balancing my own personal needs and not overdoing it with work,” Kuhn says. “For years I would go to the studio at 9 o’clock at night after I put the kids to bed and work until 2 a.m. and then get up at 7 a.m. Now I’ve learned to be really careful and protective of my time,” she explains. “Which is hard to do as an artist because you want to do everything and live your life to the fullest.
“There have to be things that fall away.” Kuhn says her priorities are clearer than ever. “Kids first, then work, and now I’m really trying to take care of myself and make sure I don’t burn out.”