Mentoring is a process of deep listening. The magic of the mentor program derives in large part from the rare opportunity to spend two hours a month talking about your art with a mentor. That focus can be transformative, and my most important contribution as a mentor is to be fully present and provide undivided attention. Of course, I have other skills that are useful. After listening, asking good questions is the next most important part of mentoring. I can provide suggestions on how to approach creative roadblocks, how to get work out into the world, how to solve technical problems, or, if I don’t know how to solve them, where to get help. Like all artists I know, I am familiar with fear and how to move beyond it, whether it’s the fear that comes with pushing your work creatively, or the fear that tries to block us from getting work out into the world. But first, I have to pay attention and provide an opportunity for my protege to talk and think her way toward her own solutions.
Another important role of the mentor is providing connections and introductions to members of the arts community. I have gathered considerable experience with marketing because of my self-publishing experience as a writer, and also have experience working with art consultants.
Flexibility and a willingness to try different approaches are also important. Sometimes, gallery visits are a good tool, sometimes a session in the studio experimenting with new techniques together can work wonders.
As a former participant in the mentor program, I know that making the commitment to participate performs its own transformation. Saying yes to yourself as an artist gets the ball rolling. It’s an honor to be present as the process unfolds.
The process of mentoring is an exchange, and I derive significant benefit as well. The creative process is cyclical, and as I find myself supporting a protege through a familiar stage of the process I often recognize that I need to refresh my own attention to the lessons learned.
I participated in the mentor program in 2007/2008 working with Brenna Busse, and have maintained an active art practice since then. I maintain a studio in the Northrup King Building, renting space to other artists, and running a small gallery space. During the 2015/1016 cycle I participated as a mentor for the first time, working with two artists in disciplines that differed substantially from my own. It was a pleasure to see their work evolve and learn from them as they moved forward.