What I’m Doing Now

Screenshot of website homepage. A variety of images and art are displayed gallery style on a light blue background. Margot's name appears in a dark blue funky, playful font.

Hello friends!

Since I’m no longer updating this site, you can see what I’m up to over at my portfolio site. I’m using the portfolio site to look for full-time, contract, and freelance gigs instead. I plan to continue hosting this lil ‘ol blog here for the foreseeable future though. Mostly as a personal archive for myself, but I also don’t want to take it down since that would remove SEO juice for me and for any of the amazing artists I’ve linked to over the years. So here it will remain, warts and all, as a time capsule to reflect back upon how much I’ve grown as a human, artistically, and creatively.

Onward and godspeed, comrades. May you find community, inspiration, and all the things your existence needs.

Mural Project Update, part II

Margot Harrington Mural

Custom shapes and circles created based off the person and the amount they donated

Soooo… Remember the mural project that I wrote about a couple weeks ago? Soho House Chicago canceled it. Initially, when they found out I was fundraising, they were confused and upset and we compromised by agreeing that my social media posts be removed. I was fine with that and compiled the best I could, however “social media posts” is vague and lead to a miscommunication on their ask. They didn’t directly ask me to take down the blog post, but I took the liberty of re-writing it and removing their name but left the post up because I didn’t want to remove the ability for people to still donate if they wanted to. This and the fact that I liked another colleague’s Instagram post in support of the fundraiser were the final straw and what lead them to cancel.

At this point, I’ve raised $1300 and have no mural to paint. So I’m sharing this now in hopes that the internet can help connect me with a new partner for a mural so I can honor people’s donation with the art they were expecting. A non-profit? A social justice organization? A restaurant? A gallery? If you know anyone you can connect me to, I’d love for this to have a happy ending!

I also want to answer some questions I’ve been getting from this experience in hopes that it promotes better transparency for the art community in general and might help protect someone else from the same fate.

Didn’t you get Soho House’s permission to fundraise?
In a word, no. I knew it was a risky move going into this, but everything else I’d experienced working with them led me to believe they wouldn’t care. They didn’t require me to sign a contract or an NDA  and didn’t ask me to submit plans or mock-ups. This gave me the impression that they wanted to be hands off. Had they been more communicative, I would’ve taken a different approach. And even if they did care, I figured that we could work through it and they would be accepting of a little boat rocking for the greater good. Alas, this was not the case.

Does Soho House really not pay artists for this program?
They cover up to $250 of material costs, which conveniently is enough to buy paint to fill the four 5×8” walls available. They offer free meals for the duration of install, which takes 2-4 days. Oh, and they put the murals on their Instagram feed with 9k followers for exposure. Initially, when they opened, Soho paid artists the full commercial value of their work in credit at any of their spaces internationally, plus a free two-year membership. That was reasonable, but not something they are offering for this monthly mural project. I can’t speak about payment for other events and programming they offer, but I know it’s similar and has been a source of frustration for others.

It seemed like you were trying to provoke them, perhaps if you were nicer they wouldn’t have been mad?
I tried my best to be honest, kind, and follow instructions as best I could. If they can’t see the real intention behind this and want to get bent out of shape because of the way the message was handled, that’s on them. This is tone policing, which is a false rhetoric used to side-step accountability. There’s no perfect way to stand up for what you believe in, especially if it goes against the status quo. The important thing is I tried.

Why did you decide to do the project in the first place if you weren’t cool with working for free?
Because no one wins in that scenario. People will just keep paying artists poorly if no one speaks up. And even though this project fell through, it has started a new conversation and that’s still progress even if it’s taken a different turn than expected.

Margot Harrington Mural

Custom shapes and circles created based off the person and the amount they donated

What’s going to happen with the money?
If anyone wants me to return their donation, please get in touch. I will completely understand if you have changed your mind. However, any and all money raised will be used to fund another mural. Based on a scale of 25 x 8 feet, the $1300 works out to about $35/hour, after taxes and material costs. If the new mural location has more square footage, and the sponsoring entity doesn’t have a budget to contribute it would be nice to have more to work with. For this reason, I’m keeping the donation links up. If donations grow beyond 5k, I’d be thrilled to donate 100% of the overage to the sponsoring entity if they are a non-profit or social justice org.

What’s next from here?
In addition to promoting the ask here, I’ve been consulting with a PR person who reps artists to help find a replacement for the mural. I’ve also been in communication with a gallerist who helps book paid murals through the West Town Chamber of Commerce. If you know of anyone else who can help get the word out, please get in touch! Any questions or leads on a replacement mural, email me to discuss more! 

Donate with Cash.Me

Paypal donation link

I’m trying to raise 5k by July 1st *Edited*

Hi friends & wonderfuls!!

I  published this a few days ago and have since edited it. You can read it  below, with the edits explained at the bottom.

Mural sketch 1

Mural sketch 1

I know it’s been like a year since I’ve posted here, but I’m still around, plugging away. Mostly updating twitter, IG, and monthly newsletters but I figured I’d flip the switch today for a special request.

 For the next two weeks, I’m campaigning to crowdfund  a mural, to help offset the time costs of this project. One could assume that I was in a successful enough position that it would be no big deal to donate 2-4 days of time, score a highly visible location for my work and use it to build my portfolio. It would be so much easier to keep my head down, do the project, get those ‘grams.

Buuuut. That’s not what’s happened. This year is about average for me in terms of finances and reflects the average salary range for an artist which is $44,855–$61,371 (2018, salary.com). It’s likely to be a break-even year, at least by current projections, which in the grand scheme of things it’s a perfectly doable life, if not super flashy or with much to re-invest. Many artists would kill to be in this position. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to spend my time and cultural value that I’ve been building for my entire professional life, and not being paid for it.

There was also the nagging reason that caused me to sign for this project anyway: I want to do more public-facing work, to be able to work with bigger brands and do larger scale projects. Even though every professional will never tell you to work for free, I would wager to say all of us has done so at some point. Sometimes doing something for free   serves as an example for someone to see, which sometimes turns into similar projects, with budgets.

Further, I’ve applied for other open calls and mural projects with budgets, but alas nothing has worked out yet. That’s always going to be a crapshoot. There’s no way of knowing how the work will be interpreted and it’s nearly impossible to get any feedback about the proposal or work itself beyond a canned rejection letter. I can and will continue that route even if it takes my whole life, but in the meantime, here is an opportunity and why not step up and make something happen.

Mural Sketch 2

Mural Sketch 2

So here we are.

I estimate it will take four full days to complete this project, so 32 hours of active painting time, plus time to source materials, commuting, and restructuring my other projects around this so I don’t fall behind on the things that ARE paying me. At my ideal hourly rate, this will total about $5k.

This is an experiment. It might not work, but I gotta try. If you feel compelled by my story or the plight of artists and freelancers, or want to make a statement against capitalist forces that keep money in the pockets of the rich and away from everyone else, then please give.

Whatever money received will determine what the resulting mural will be. So if 4 people submit the circle level for $25, then the whole thing will be 4 giant circles, or zeros, depending on your point of view. The mural will also include numerical totals of the amount raised, the final hourly rate, hours the process took to complete, and relevant wage statistics.

$5 to $20 – In-kind donation

$25 – Circle painted for your donation

$50 – Custom shape painted for your donation

$100 – Your name listed as a supporter in the mural

$500 – Dedicate 1 of 4 mural panels to your name

Donate with Cash.Me

Paypal donation link

Thank you, eternally for reading, supporting, even if not monetarily. It means a lot to have you even read this.
~ Margot

*June 29th, 7:42pm, edited to add:
This post has been updated upon request  by the project’s sponsoring entity, which is a compromise that allows us to  continue  talking about the ways in which the  mural program  can be funded and allows me to complete the mural I’ve designed. So far I’ve raised $1,134 , which is truly incredible. I’m so overwhelmingly grateful to the community standing behind us so that artist s can be paid better!

Japan, Part 3 & the Takeaways


Kyoto Alleyway

Naoshima ferry

Naoshima Ferry

Toyko Alleyway

It’s unconventional to share this part of the story now, instead of first, but yet here we are. When I talked about doing this there were raised eyebrows and whys. Alone, really? What for? And why Japan of all places? A few people said they could never do something like this, or they were afraid or intimidated to try. Let me pull back whatever imaginary cobwebs there are around this and explain it further.

Just as I collected dollars for the trip, I collected reasons to go. Art research provides a professional claim if it involves continuing education and/or marketing content. And I guess a vacation too – like why not?! Who wouldn’t. But it needed to be more than that.

It’s because of my dad that I came to appreciate Japanese culture in the first place, and so this was in part in honor of his memory since he never got to go. So that was a major factor. There’s much to love about Japan, in general, of course. But there was also this primal need to absent myself from everything and everyone familiar for awhile. That mostly came as a reaction to the pace of every day life, the speed at which things move seems to happen in permanent escalation forever now and I wanted to get off the carousel for a little while. I also knew I was using this busyness as a cover for avoiding exploring parts of myself like what’s next for my work, for myself, for my life, and relationships.

It’s real scary to flip on the lights of one’s interior self and let the chips fall as they will, but there’s no way to avoid this when everything’s all scrambled up from culture shock, jet lag, language barriers. I definitely had to face parts of my personality I don’t love. Like for example, it took me a long time to feel comfortable speaking up about having gluten issues while there. Or the homesick, intimidated, or lonely moments. The hope was the would rip the band-aid off of everything and promote that much more growth in life and work.

It definitely feels like a feminist move, because women generally aren’t encouraged to show up in a foreign country alone. Also it comes with the implication that things are not alright at home, or the concern she’s running from something. As if that’s the only reason a person would want to do this. Clearly, a woman traveling alone for her own self-investment, or even just to have an adventure and make some good stories is a bold move. So you could say I did it for the raised eyebrows, to challenge them.

In the end the big takeaways are further vision about where I’m going with my work, more acceptance and self-love for my body and brain, renewed confidence overall, deeper understanding of a new culture in addition to my own, and more empathy for those less fortunate as well as immigrants and refugees. It is incredibly humbling to be immersed in a culture where you know no one, don’t speak the language, and the food is not yours. I have such respect for people and families who make this leap. It’s more important to me now than ever to show this and continue to fight for immigrant and refugee support, less hostility between nations as a whole. I’m also interested in helping others figure out how to get to have an experience like this, whether it’s through moral support, offering resources to retreats, grants, or even student-focused initiatives, whatever it is. If this is you, let me know how I can help.

So! This concludes this portion of the Japan diaries. As of now, I do not have plans to travel beyond the Midwest for the next few months. But who knows what’s next!! Lay it on me, universe. We got this.

Kyoto Dentist Office

Kawaii dentist office in Kyoto

Margot in Japan: Naoshima & Kyoto

Back home and recovering from the last dredges of jet lag! Taking the time to commit these words before I’m completely re-absorbed back into life and it seems as if this trip never happened.


Seto Inland Sea

motor assist bicycle

After leaving Tokyo, I journeyed to the tiny island of Naoshima, a short ferry ride off the south coast of central Japan in the Seto Inland Sea. This area and a couple other surrounding islands are known for their artistic attractions. Here, a large, spotlessly designed and impeccably presented contemporary art complex lives housing several museums, in addition to a cluster of galleries and non-traditional art spaces in the island’s town areas. I rented a ~$15 motor-assist bicycle while there, the island itself is very hilly so this was helpful, and zipped around to the various attractions over the space of three days.

Tadao Ando Bennesse House

tadao ando

Here I learned about the work of self-taught architect, Tadao Ando, one of the most famous architects from Japan. He designed many spaces on the island and there’s a delightful little museum about his work. I like his style a lot, he uses unusual angles, interesting windows, and has a particular way of manipulating light. But there were moments the concrete blocks felt bunker-like, fallout shelter oppressive, not a place I want to imagine lingering long.

James Turell and Yayoi Kusama are other artists who are featured prominently here and their work was also a highlight for me. Turell’s work is impossible to photograph, with the way he uses light and color to shape, play with space and dimension. It’s incredible. Even if I had the skill to capture it, these museums ban photos. But, I will say, if you ever find yourself in this part of the world DO NOT miss his pieces on Naoshima and neighboring island, Teshima. For me, it was definitely worth traversing half the globe.

Yayoi Kusama

Kusama’s work is an excellent role on the island, adds a level of silliness and play when much of the art in the area is austere and contemplative. She’s also one of the few women artists being shown, they haven’t found parity here, just like the rest of the art industry. The only other tricky part was there was minimal info on the installations and artists written in English, this was true of most art spaces I visited in Japan. I got what I could, but will still need to supplement with additional research on my own.

Outside of the island’s museums, there were the tiny art houses, which I found the most fun overall. Small former homes converted into tiny displays featuring more local and up-and-coming artists. However, overall I realized I wanted to be challenged by the art a bit more, or educated somehow. Granted, I’m not the typical art consumer, but none of the work addresses the environment, historical events, politics, or social issues for example. Seems like a lost opportunity given how many people visit here from everywhere else. I suppose there’s this assumption that people are on vacation and want to turn their brains off, but I challenge that idea. Because people come here for an experience. And there are ways difficult subjects can be accomplished in a thoughtful, hopeful, or uplifting way so people will get it but won’t be, like, broken by it. Anyway, it’s still awesome.

Following this, back to Kyoto (omg high-speed trains!!), where I spent 7 nights. Here my goal was about trying to grasp more of Japanese deep history and traditional art and craft. Kyoto is FULL of shrines, temples, vintage shops, beautiful nature, and traditional artisans of every stripe. Papermakers, knife makers, weavers, ceramicists, anything. I even walked past a shop peddling gorgeous handmade brooms, mats, and bristle brushes.


Kyoto is the best place to find Geisha culture, which I was extremely lucky to stumble upon by chance after randomly selecting a sushi spot for dinner one night. There brought conversation with another patron in broken Japanese-English. He was very curious about me, but kindly so. In classic Japanese fashion, he was exceedingly polite and honorable despite being jubilantly drunk. As the restaurant began to close, he and the restaurant owner invited me to a traditional Geisha house where we had another round of drinks. I did have a moment’s hesitation but decided to trust them, and I was rewarded. Ten minutes later I’m sitting across from two gorgeously appointed 18-year-old maiko, or geisha-in-training. We talked about Disney movies, Sanrio characters, and our favorite foods in Japan and Chicago. Too soon we exhausted our mutual language skills and the wine and they dispatched me to my hotel in a taxi. This was like finally cracking into Japan’s true self for a second, a true prize I will hold onto forever.

Eri Yoshihara

Eri Yoshihara

It was at this point I felt most at home, having grasped a bit more language skills and settled into the culture more (bowing, so much bowing). Kyoto is small enough that I found myself in similar areas, even walking down the same lanes and alleys again. On my second-to-last day, because of research help an artist friend Leah Mackin provided before I left, I found a small art space, Gallery Morning and the trompe l’oiel work of printmaker & painter Eri Yoshihara. We spent a lovely few minutes chatting about art and Eri and as I was preparing to go, Eri & the gallerist pulled out a Kyoto art guide and circled all their favorite spots. And with that, I occupied myself for the rest of the day poking around to small galleries and learning about what Kyoto artists are up to these days. I loved that it didn’t have the same big-city or highbrow feel of Toyko, much like how Chicago feels small and easy to engage with compared to New York City.

And, here I am, the marvel of travel being you generally end up back where you started from in some capacity. I’m still unraveling the full, long-term effects from a trip like this, and struggling to articulate the compulsion behind why I chose to do this. But this post is long already, so this I’ll discuss either in another post or my monthly newsletter which is out next Thursday. So! Until next time, friend!