All About MICA
What’s the story behind MICA?
MICA is changing the goalposts.
There is nothing that states we can’t make it where we’re rooted. Artist mothers come from all walks of life, different backgrounds, and are at different stages of motherhood: some are pregnant, others have little ones, and some of us have teens, or college and beyond. Being an artist is a full-time commitment and often motherhood takes as much time and energy. The two parts of the artist mother are being pulled between two worlds they can’t deny.
Lyza Fennell and Elena Allee met in 2008 when their now teenagers were only two years old. They immediately bonded over similar backgrounds and interests. Lyza and Elena fantasized about ways to collaborate creatively over the years. They also would commiserate over not being able to find time to work on their art forms.
MICA, Mothers Institute for Collaboration and Art, was born from an email from Smith College’s Dean of Students regarding a grant opportunity and a further conversation between Lyza and Elena in creating an innovative way of celebrating and supporting artistic mothers like them.
In 2021 and 2022, they built the beginnings of MICA. MICA endeavors to be an opportunity to spotlight and support artistic mothers through many channels including the bi-annual arts festival, website and social media, and workshops, which they hope to offer in 2023. MICA grows with its community. When we artistic mothers collaborate, we lift each other up and offer support where individual help is needed. Communities build from their roots—when we meet we learn from each other.
Who are we?
Lyza Fennell, Managing Director
Lyza has a Bachelor of Art in Theatre from Smith College. While at Smith, she rediscovered her passion for creative arts and immersed herself in playwriting, creative writing, costume design, art, and publicity classes. Some of Lyza’s greatest strengths are her drive, determination, and ability to overcome obstacles. Lyza’s creative arts background, paired with her marketing and networking skills, ensures a unique, visually appealing, and culturally rich perspective. As co-owner of T-Ray Music, Inc, a music production company, Lyza concentrates on the business side of things. In 2020, she became Creative Director for a law tutoring company and business lawyer focusing on women-and-mother-owned small businesses and has since been promoted to Business Manager.
In her early career, Lyza managed a Betsey Johnson boutique on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with sales revenue of over $1.5 million. She increased sales by 10-30% each month. Highlights of the job were visual merchandising, personal shopping, buying in the showroom, and assisting at fashion shows.
As the wife of a traveling musician, Lyza knows firsthand the many highs and lows that come with being an artist without a guaranteed paycheck. Becoming a mother was life-changing and beyond rewarding, and she treasures every moment with her kids. As a mother who set aside her own passions, Lyza has reemerged as an artist herself gathering her tools and seeking to build a meaningful community. It takes a village to raise a child, they say. MICA says: it takes a village to raise artistic mothers, too. It’s time for the village to give back to mom, let her rise. MICA knows artists need to be empowered and build entrepreneurial skills.
Elena Allee, Art Director
Elena Allee is an artist, mom, chocolatier, and farmer, originally from New York City and Vermont, currently settled and working in Western Massachusetts, having arrived there via Oakland, the Central Coast, and Los Angeles, California, where, concomitant with her studio practice, she had a clothing label, designed theater sets, and ran a nightclub/alternative theater space among other endeavors.
Elena received her BA in English and Spanish literature, with a second concentration in art, from Bennington College, and her MFA in painting from The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
After scaling back her studio work and time considerably for the last 16 years to focus on raising her type one diabetic kid as a single mom (and running two businesses to be able to afford this), Elena has finally been able to get back to more studio time in the last year and is currently working on a number of painting commissions and a series of large drawings of endangered species.
During the hiatus from her studio, she co-founded and co-directed a community education center and homeschooling co-operative, where she also taught art and writing. She is also co-owner of a local chocolate company in Western Massachusetts.