Mother-daughter relationship is the tie that binds family’s four generations.
If there is one word to describe Jill Michell and her daughter Lucy Michell, it is sympatico, meaning not only agreeable but like-minded. Theirs is not so much a situation of like mother, like daughter, as it is of shared interests and an appreciation for what the other does.
On any given day, you might find Lucy at the Macalester-Groveland home of her mother and photographer father Richard Michell. Or you might find Jill at the Hamline-Midway home where Lucy and her husband Cooper Sheehan are raising their two young sons and daughter.
Wherever Jill and Lucy are, they are talking and likely laughing about the trials, tribulations and joys of motherhood and their respective careers in the arts.
Jill is a painter and a retired arts educator, and Lucy is a musician and illustrator. As one longtime friend said, “Lucy is the poster girl for learning how to pivot in these uncertain times and what it feels like to be a working mom today.”
Jill said she had it much easier as a working mom with her daughters born 10 years apart. While teaching art at Saint Paul’s LEAP High School, she found time to pursue painting and to teach Lucy and her younger sister Alice to find beauty in the world.
Having a good sense of humor and an appreciation for the other’s strengths make for a good mother-daughter relationship, Jill and Lucy agreed. “As hard and as busy as things can get, it’s important to remember to stay positive and know that you can accomplish anything no matter what,” Lucy said. “Women have that power.”
“As a child I went everywhere with my mom,” Lucy said, “and she was always finding something to point out. I learned to see loveliness and creativity around me.” Lucy said she grew up in the company of artists her parents knew and was exposed to the music her parents loved, including Nina Simone, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
Jill is busy now preparing an exhibition of her paintings at her in-home studio. Her plein air and still life paintings have previously been exhibited at the University of Minnesota’s Katherine Nash Gallery and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Lucy is looking forward to a more active schedule in music as COVID-19 loosens its grip on the art world. She performs with her pop rock quartet the Little Fevers and is preparing to release a new recording, “American Mom.” She is also planning to complete a master’s degree in art education at the U of M and teach as her mother did.
Ups and downs of pandemic
With so much on hold during the pandemic, Lucy said, motherhood was made easier and more joyous. “If there’s anything good to come out of the lockdowns, it’s that our kids have brought so much light and hilarity than we otherwise might have had,” she said.
Jill had to isolate at home for a time. Not seeing Lucy and her family for so long, she appreciates their proximity now more than ever. “We weren’t mingling in between our houses,” Jill said, “and that was hard. We feel very fortunate to live so close.
Learning from each other’s experiences
“I love to learn from Lucy,” Jill added. “I learn a lot from her. As a mother, what’s really neat is to embrace and learn from your daughter’s life. To have a genuine interest and appreciation and curiosity makes for a great relationship.”
Lucy appreciates Jill’s advice as a mother and as an artist. When Lucy was working on illustrations for a book written by Twin Cities musician and composer Chan Poling, she shared them with her mother. “As a plein air painter, my mother studies the play of light. And she’d say, ‘Oh, I think you should change that shadow a bit.’ She helped me finish them,” Lucy said.
“Lucy is good about being assertive if she doesn’t need advice,” Jill said. “I think it’s neat that she has the respect and confidence to accept criticism and know when it isn’t needed.”
Having a good sense of humor and an appreciation for the other’s strengths also make for a good mother-daughter relationship, Jill and Lucy agreed. “As hard and as busy as things can get, it’s important to remember to stay positive and know that you can accomplish anything no matter what,” Lucy said. “Women have that power.”
The Michells will celebrate all this and more on Mother’s Day, May 9.
“This year we’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with four generations,” Jill said. “I’ll be joining my mother, Jean Dooley, Lucy and the grandchildren. Lucy’s husband Cooper makes delicious Eggs Benedicts, and we hope he’ll do it again.”
“Every Mother’s Day since our oldest was born, my husband has had our children make me a hand-painted little canvas,” Lucy said. “I’m also so very grateful for my mother-in-law, Alex Crosby, who also happens to be a Highland resident. The kids are so lucky to have both their grandmothers in their lives.”
— Anne Murphy
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