May 9, 2014

Mother’s Day: Wichita artists share their joys and fears

In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked five Wichita-area artists who are mothers to share drawings of their children, and their experiences with modern motherhood.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked five Wichita-area artists who are mothers to share drawings of their children, and their experiences with modern motherhood.

Jessica Vega, 23, of Wellington

Mother to: Judah, 20 months

The best part of being of mom ... Someone always wants to be around me and have my attention. I get to see everything new again.

He teaches me ... that normal things can be fun and not just look at them one certain way. A stick is not just something to toss aside and burn; it’s something you can build and play with.

I worry ... he will get too far head of himself, that he’ll literally jump and break his leg. He’s an adventurer.

I’m confident ... he will have people skills. He likes to wave at people, talk to them and show them new things.

My dream ... is for him to do what he wants. He would do well traveling and building things.

Our favorite thing to do together is ... watching cars from the front porch and snacking on things like marshmallows and strawberries. He likes the noise of the cars and watching them go by, and we both like to eat. It’s kind of peaceful and nice.

About the artist: Vega works primarily in portraiture and watercolors. See more of her work at

Jaki McElroy, 35, of Wichita

Mother to: Catalina, 12; Rosie, 7; Mayan, 3

The best part of being of mom ... is being a teacher. It’s like having best friends my whole life. I love children. I love teaching them and doing little things with them like playing with dirt and creating things out of everything.

They teach me ... about life. They have lots of questions about God, about how things work and their purposes. They teach me about being happy and being patient and learning for the sake of learning. I had an aneurysm and stroke, and I couldn’t draw and paint. I had to learn how to do everything again. I had to do a lot of physical therapy so I could draw again, cook, clean. ... They gave me hope.

I worry ... I had my daughter when 21, so I didn’t get a chance to finish college. I want all my kids to have the college degree so they can take care of themselves. It’s hard being a struggling artist. I wish them to be happy.

I’m confident ... they’re very loving. They love learning; they love reading. They know how to play and read, and take one day at a time.

My dream is ... just for them to be happy. I want them to have good jobs that they’re happy about, to do good things for people.

Our favorite thing to do together is ... playing. I play everything with them. We have puppet shows, play soccer and make art together – sidewalk chalking, finger painting. Just being a kid with them makes me feel like a kid, too.

About the artist: McElroy focuses on painting acrylics on found materials and recycled wood and does caricatures. See more of her works at She will be participating in Final Fridays shows in October (Commerce Gallery, Go Away Garage) and November (Bluebird Arthouse).

Susan de Wit, 63, of Wichita

Mother to: Sara, 34, and Jonathan, 39

The best part of being of mom ... is it’s really fulfilling as a woman. Sara’s middle name is Jean which is a derivative of “gift of God,” and Jonathan also means a gift of God. I just see them as these gifts that I get a chance to interact with.

She teaches me ... not to holler (laughs). My daughter has an extremely good sense of humor. She teaches me to look at life in a brighter way.

I worry... they’re never gonna live close enough to me to spend time with now that I’m older (Sara lives in Spokane, Wash.; Jonathan in Bend, Ore.). Once you reach 60, and you only see them once every two or three years, that’s only about 20 more times you’re gonna see them. I worry I’m not going to see them enough.

I’m confident ... they live the lives they want.

My dream is ... to live next door to both of them. I want to live close by without being in their hair.

Our favorite thing to do together is ... Growing up, it was camping. I taught her to throw on the wheel (making pottery), and my son is pretty artistic.

About the artist: She works in fibers that include mixed media, and she works in schools with students on clay-based murals. You can find de Wit at the Maker’s Fair, part of the Art & Book Fair at Century II, this weekend. She’ll also participate in the “What’s Bugging Me” exhibit at Exploration Place this fall.

Susie Cunningham, 61, of Wichita

Mother to: Sarah, 36 (drawing of her at 6 months)

The best part of being of mom ... is the joy of watching her learn, watching all the changes and being a part of them.

She teaches me ... patience. She was just so happy as a baby, and she was always so inquisitive so you had to stay on top of it all the time since she was so eager to learn. I had to be patient with that so I couldn’t confine her.

I worry ... about the future of the economy. She has nice career, but it seems like anything can happen to your job these days.

I’m confident ... she’s resourceful and intelligent, and she’s got a real drive for working hard. She’s not afraid to work hard. She has two little girls, and she’s very creative at keeping them busy doing other things than watching TV.

My dream is ... for her to continue in school. She has an associate’s, and I want her to get four years to be happy and healthy and financially secure.

Our favorite thing to do together is ... we paint together and have lots of family dinners.

About the artist: Cunningham is a muralist, and works in watercolors, handmade paper, acrylics, and upcycled found objects, among others. She will participate in a show called “Bridging Art and Science” at Exploration Place in October. See more of her work at

Melissa Slates, 32, of Wichita

Mother to: Lexi Simone, 9; Lyric Monet, 11

The best part of being of mom ... is getting to take two people who started as blank canvases and making their lives as colorful as possible, and in turn, they give me purpose.

They teach me ... the depths of my love. There isn’t anything that will have greater meaning than being a mother. They’ve taught me my purpose in life.

I worry ... about everything. Being a mother is like living with your heart outside your body. I worry so they don’t have to.

I’m confident ... I will send two strong, compassionate, creative women into the world who can hold their own against whatever they face in life.

My dream is ... happiness for them. It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they’re happy.

Our favorite thing to do together ... No matter how big they get, my favorite thing to do is cuddle. When they’re in my arms, I know they’re safe and all is right in the world.

About the artist: Slates is a painter and muralist and works in mixed media acrylic. Her studio, Art & Soul, is at 3219 S. Walnut. See more of her work at

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