Bridging Generations: The Value of Mentorship - Part 1
Part 1 of 2. Part 2 will be published August 16, 2019.
Ten emerging artists were chosen to act as ambassadors for BC Culture Days this year. Ambassadors are tasked with producing a Culture Days event and acting as spokespeople for Culture Days in their respective communities. Through a partnership with CSARN (Canadian Senior Artists Resources Network), the program now offers a mentorship component as well. Each ambassador was matched with a senior artist, with whom they will be working, over a three-month period. Together each pair developed a work plan to support their professional development through knowledge sharing, guidance, collaboration, and community networking. They shared with us their experiences so far:
Cat Sivertson, Visual Artist
Mentee: Sebastian Nicholson
Cat Sivertson believes that mentorship is about working beside one another, rather than teaching. “Being an educator, one knows that you get inspired, and you learn from the person that you’re meant to be mentoring. I’m learning from him as well.”
Cat was surprised to have been asked to be a mentor, but she agreed enthusiastically. She is thrilled that senior artists are being recognized for their value, and is happy to support someone like Sebastian who’s just getting started in his career. She continued, “I wish that I had somebody like me when I was a kid.”
Sebastian looks up to her. “She shared lots of her life knowledge about art, and she’s been helping me bring my idea to fruition, and giving me a strong guiding hand in methods that work for getting the word out.”
They have worked on his networking skills, and Cat has brought up some issues that a less experienced artist might not think about. “What are you going to do with the kids? The one kid who says ‘I’m done’ right when you’re doing your project work? You need to have a backup.”
Pierre Leichner, Eco-Artist
Mentee: Alyssa Harms-Wiebe
Pierre Leichner is working to expand Alyssa’s knowledge base. “We started looking at some of the knowledge around the works that she’s planning to do.”
Alyssa says, “He’s given me a lot of books to read, and I attended one of his events the other day. He’s been able to provide insights and literature about the environment and how the environment can affect art.”
He’s also helping her to find a space, then tailor her project to the site.
“I have experience in doing socially-engaged projects in the community and the environment. I can tell her about my experience, what works, and what doesn’t necessarily work.”
Despite Pierre’s experience in visual art installation, he says that Alyssa has more knowledge than him on writing and poetry.
“The student always has knowledge that the teacher doesn’t have to share. It’s an old traditional way of thinking that students don’t have knowledge to share, or don’t have experience.”
The two have yet to spend a lot of time together, as Alyssa was in Iceland for a month. She is back in Vancouver and Pierre is positive they can “get going more intensely” now.
Jocelyn Barrable-Segal, Printmaker
Mentee: Molly Gray
Jocelyn Barrable-Segal loves mentoring. “I have a lot of experience. I have 40 years working as a lithographer.”
She believes that the ancient tools and techniques of her trade will be lost as more young artists turn to digital media. This mentorship program gives her the chance to pass on those skills and see someone else be enthusiastic about it.
“Molly has a lot of knowledge in woodblock printing. She did a couple of linocuts first and then we registered the lithograph on top, so she has registration techniques. That’s what she wanted to do, and that’s exactly what I have given her.”
Molly liked the idea of a mentorship when she applied. “That was a really enticing aspect of [the ambassadorship], and so far it’s been amazing.”
When asked if she thought the mentorship was beneficial for her, too, Jocelyn replied “Yeah, it is. When you get older you forget how much you know, how interesting you really are, or that you’re happy with yourself.”
She was pleased to hear that BC Culture Days is working with CSARN to connect and engage people across generations, saying, “It’s an excellent program. It really helps.”
Loraine Wellman, Painter
Mentee: Emily Shin
Loraine Wellman understands the importance of art education. She started taking art classes as a child, and later completed a certificate from the Vancouver School of Art.
Her mentee, Emily Shin, is a self-taught artist. She learned how to paint through YouTube videos. “I want to know how did she become an artist, learn about her story.”
Loraine hesitated to agree to be a mentor, thinking “Am I really qualified? Do I really know anything?” Yet she has helped Emily with securing a venue, keeping sketchbooks and setting up her studio.
She also encourages her mentee to try new things, such as the Grand Prix Plein Air Challenge, in which artists have three hours to complete a painting.
“I know a bunch of people that will be [painting] so I’ve alerted her to who they will be, and then I’ll talk to them and get them to look out for her. You don’t want to feel like the new kid in the school cafeteria.”
As beneficial as this experience is for Emily, Loraine believes it’s good for her, too. “It’s interesting seeing her perspective on things. Maybe I’ll learn a bit about what she does with stop motion videos, because I’ve never done anything like that.”
Janet Hinton, Playwright
Mentee: Julian Legere
Janet Hinton prefers one-to-one mentoring over classroom teaching. “Oh, I just love mentoring. You develop a relationship with the person and you can really pay attention to what they need and really help them to transform themselves. You pass on skills in a very personal way.”
She has decades of experience as a writer, and hopes to get Julian writing “the way he wants to” by the end of this mentorship.
Julian says, “I’ve already been learning a lot about how to create work, and how to adapt life to work, and how to shape art in a way that really allows people to benefit from it.”
His creative process is centred on collaboration. “I’m a big fan of projects with a lot of different voices and ideas involved. I get a lot of creative energy ideas from whoever is in the room with me when I’m working on something.”
Janet finds working together energizing, too. “When you teach your skills that you know, you find out how much you know. Youth energizes us old folks—their enthusiasm and their spontaneity are great gifts to us.”
Coincidentally, they are both writing one-person shows for the first time. Janet is certain they will both learn from each other while finishing their scripts.