Christine Goodman Art House Owner Jersey City
I’ve known Christine Goodman since before either of us had kids. It’s been amazing to grow into motherhood with her. Her words are always inspiring.
JCFamilies: Tell us who you are, professionally.
Christine Goodman: I am the founder and executive director of the visual and performing arts center Art House Productions. Now in its 16th year, we present plays, art exhibitions, and a quarterly citywide arts festival – JC Fridays.
JCF: How did JC Fridays start?
CG: JC Fridays came about after the closing of 111 First Street, an artist enclave in Jersey City. When that building closed, a lot of our arts community felt really beaten down. Art House had a meeting with arts organizers, arts friendly businesses, and other community leaders, to see how we could move the arts forward in Jersey City.
The idea of JC Fridays came out of that meeting. Even to this day, it continues the spirit of the community coming together to support one another around the arts. There was a real need for that. I think that’s why it’s such a successful program.
JCF: How important are the arts to a community?
CG: The arts are an extremely valuable component of any healthy city, particularly in times where people feel like they don’t have a voice. The arts gives people a platform, a meeting place, a community. A vibrant arts scene makes people feel invested in the city and in the communities in which they live.
JCF: What’s a typical workday like for you?
CG: It starts at 6 am – but through no decision of my own.
JCF: Because of the kids?
CG: Yes. Should we talk about a work day, or about my family?
CG: So I have my predawn experience with my one year old. That’s how we roll into the rest of the morning. I have two kids. The day starts with them waking up pretty early. My husband and I get them to school, and then I’m at Art House. It’s a 24/7 job. As a founder, an organization like this is a third child. This is my teenager.
JCF: Why did you call it a teenager – what makes it a teenager?
CG: First because it’s 16 years old. But also because it has really has matured. It can stand on its own. It has its own identity. It’s wonderful to see that through all the growing pains, we have created an institution that means a lot to many people.
JCF: How do you balance your business and your family?
CG: That’s the million-dollar question. It’s evolving. It’s a balancing act. As professional mothers, we continually walk the line of making sure that we’re there for our kids, that they have what they need, and also that we’re taking care of what the businesses needs, which can mean that you are on call at the strangest hours.
There’s no easy answer or a magic pill for running a business and being a mother of two. We have these standards of excellence as professionals and mothers that we can handle everything. The short answer is that it’s really tough. I think the short answer is in continually making sure that your children know that you’re there for them and empowering other people around your business as well.
JCF: How do you do that?
CG: For me, it means making sure that my kids feel comfortable at my business. I don’t run a 9-5. They’re comfortable at Art House. They’re comfortable in the theatre. They have space here that’s their own. They’re welcomed when they walk in the door. At the times when there needs to be a lot of juggling, they can be in the space of my business and feel like they belong.
The other thing is being realistic about my timelines, about what is humanly possible for me to accomplish. I think that the Christine before kids would work all night if she needed to. Christine after kids needs to make sure that the timelines and support systems are in place. Which has been a wonderful change for me.
JCF: Do you ever work at night?
CG: Taking a meeting at 7 pm is tough. It means that there are other people who have to sacrifice in order for that to happen. Even for me to be at the shows that I produce – I’m continually figuring out how to navigate. The natural result is that I’ve had to not hold on so tightly to the idea that I need to do it all myself at Art House. And it’s been great. There’s a beautiful leadership team here that’s really wonderful and rocking it out. It takes a village on both ends.
JCF: What was it like going from one to two babies?
CG: Having my first child and the incorporation of motherhood into business ownership was overwhelming at first, and then manageable. We found our rhythm and knew that it wouldn’t last forever, but it was working.
But when the second baby came along, the juggling wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t possible. At that point, I needed to make sure that we had a theatre manager and a technical director who could be on site in the evenings and make sure that the shows went smoothly in my absence.
JCF: If you had to do it all again, what would change?
CG: Nothing. Through owning my own business, I was able to bring my kids to work with me for the first 10 months of their lives. I could pursue my love of the arts and keep the business going. It was a wonderful opportunity and for that I am extremely grateful. In an ideal world, I don’t even know how I would change it, because my kids are growing up in the theatre and I think that’s a unique experience for them too.
JCF: What is the best advice that you ever got?
CG: It wasn’t any specific thing. Having the influence of other mothers around me that were making it work, and knowing that it didn’t always have to be perfect, was amazing. Being able to see that we all mess up, and we’re all feeling our way through this – and that it’s possible to raise children who are kind, aware, intelligent human beings while still not always getting it right felt like such a relief. It shifted the focus from being supermom to being a human being and the best mom I could be. That gave me more confidence. It’s nice to know that we all drop the ball, and we all feel like we’re constantly playing catch up, and we forget the diapers, and we try to figure out a last minute dinner, and we forget the paperwork for the school, but at the end of the day, our kids are good people. And that says to me that I’m on the right track.
Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com.