Maria Novotny, assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, is preparing for the spotlight in New York City as she accepts a national award this month for the use of art to break the silence around infertility.
Resolve: The National Infertility Association, is awarding Novotny’s The ART of Infertility, with the Hope Award for Innovation for using art to break the silence around reproductive grief and fighting to make infertility more visible. Novotny, co-founder and co-director of The ART of Infertility, will accept the award Nov. 12 at the iconic venue, Capitale, in New York City.
“It is an honor to receive this award from RESOLVE,” Novotny said. “For the past four years, I have worked with Elizabeth Walker (co-founder and co-director), traveling around the U.S. with this innovative art exhibit to raise awareness about the challenges of living with infertility.”
In addition to the curated art exhibits that portray the realities, pains and joys of living with infertility, the founders also design engaging curriculum to host art and writing workshops and plan educational outreach events.
ART is a play on words and stands for assisted reproductive technology, as well as representing the artwork itself.
“Resolve is proud to honor The ART of Infertility for the important work it has done for people living with infertility and all those who are challenged in their family-building journey,” said Barbara Collura, RESOLVE’s president and chief executive officer, who added that celebrating the contributions may inspire others to get informed, seek support, advocate for change and take action to reach resolution in their family-building journey.
Novotny said she knows from personal experience that avoiding talk about challenges conceiving does not help.
“Infertility can be an isolating, stigmatized disease,” she said. “We need to start talking about reproductive loss and changing laws so that adoption and fertility treatments are more accessible to all. We hope The ART of Infertility begins these conversations and helps others see the power of artistic storytelling.”
She says infertility can leave one feeling uncreative—“your body physically can’t create a child that you want. But art and writing are therapeutic reminders that your body still is creative, just in a different way.”
Art and writing also help represent invisible experiences of infertility and can be an eye-opener for relatives and friends.
The ART of Infertility traveling exhibit currently is on display in Evanston, Illinois. It previously has been exhibited at UW Oshkosh and at UW-Madison. Novotny said she would love the exhibit to be in a public gallery space in the Fox Valley or Green Bay area.
“It is really important to us to use this exhibit as an educational outlet that also demonstrates community support around issues of infertility,” she said.