By Heather Carroll
Thirty-six years ago in 1982, WARM began a new venture. The brainchild of Judith Roode, the Rent-a-Mentor program (as it was known then) was created to answer Roode’s “compelling question [at the time]: Why are there no mentors for women artists in the Art community?” The Rent-a-Mentor program began with sixteen WARM Gallery members who volunteered to be mentors (Roode among them), five possible partial scholarships for mentees funded by the Metropolitan Arts Council and the desire to attract twenty protégés. The mentee application process included a panel discussion, meetings and slide viewings. Twelve mentors chose to work with twenty protégé artists. The full program included thirty hours of self-directed, one-on-one time over a ten-month period and ended with a show at the WARM Gallery. Seventeen of the twenty mentor/protégé pairs’ artworks were included in that exhibition in November 1982.
In addition to providing women mentors for women artists, the program encouraged mentors to share their skills, contacts and experiences to assist the development of women artists through personal connection, evaluation, criticism and exposure.
While the program was popular from the start, like any good protégé, the program itself needed some mentoring, too. According to an exhibition press release for the WARM Mentor/Protégé exhibit at St. Catherine University in 1986, the mentor program took a one-year break to “undergo a process of re-evaluation” and expected to reemerge in 1987 with some changes. The WARM Mentor Program went on to be very successful, mentoring more than 600 women over thirty-six years.
Judith Roode passed away recently after a long debilitating illness. She touched many lives and her spirit lives on. A celebration of her life is being planned for the fall. Roode was a WARM Gallery member from 1976 to 1988, the creator of the mentor program and active in many of WARM’s other programs and activities. She held a B.A. from Grinnell College and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Roode taught at MCAD from 1977 to 1991 where, according to local art critic Mary Abbe, her drawing and visual journaling courses became legendary. She is also well known for her figurative paintings and drawings. Roode’s work is included in the collections of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Weisman Art Museum, Tweed Museum of Art and the Minnesota Historical Society and has been exhibited across the country.
Heather Carroll is an artist, archivist and art historian who is currently researching the early history of WARM and curating an upcoming exhibition titled Roots and Fruits: Exploring the History and Impact of the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota at The Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, November 3-December 15, 2018. Opening reception: November 3, 2018 6-8pm.
Judith Roode speaking to Alice Neel about the forthcoming mentor program at the WARM gallery in 1982.
Susan MacDonald (WARM Journal)