As we celebrate ten years of pairing new graduates with established artists to learn the ropes of that tricky place we call the art world, we take a look back to three of our first ‘mentees’ and see where their careers have taken them.
Hi Krystie, what did being part of the mentoring programme mean for you?
It was my first step outside of art school where I received support and recognition on this chosen art path. It was a godsend at a critical time.
Who was your mentor and what was the best nugget of advice they gave you?
My mentor was Tanya Wilkinson, and it was her support and encouragement which has stayed with me right through. She believed in what I was doing. For me that was more powerful than words.
What is happening right now in your career?
My work was recently accepted to the Wallace Award finals and is part of the traveling show. I was part of a group show at Whitespace in August this year. I am looking into some public art projects as I enjoy getting out of the studio cave and working with other people. I don’t have plans with set time frames right now, which allows for new exploration in the studio.
Would you ever consider being a mentor yourself?
Yes, it would be a pleasure
What do you do every day to maintain momentum in your career?
I paint or be creative in some way every day to keep my focus. Another goal in mind is to show a work at least once per year.
Hi Matt, can you remember what prompted you to apply for the Artists Alliance Mentoring Programme all those years ago?
Maggie Gresson [Artists Alliance’s Executive Director] visited our bDes painting/sculpture final year group at Unitec in 2004 and gave a professional practice talk. I was impressed, signed up as an Artists Alliance member and put my name in the mix for the mentoring programme in 2005 as a mentee.
Who was the mentor you were placed with on the programme? Was this a good match?
I was paired up with curator, Charlotte Huddleston. This was a great match for me, as I was combining making my own art with getting started in writing and curating. Charlotte was very professional and supportive, met up with me on occasion through that year and offered a lot of encouragement. She is a lovely person.
Where has your career taken you since ‘graduating’ the mentoring programme?
For a couple of years I worked two non-art jobs while producing three solo shows and moving more towards curating and writing. These experiences led me to Objectspace, where I was programme coordinator (2007-2011), followed by the recently formed Auckland Council as a regional arts advisor (2011-13) then programme leader (2013-14), as well as voluntary and paid work for Artists Alliance and Creative NZ in my spare time (2009-2013). Since November 2014, I have been the manager and curator at Bath Street Gallery in Parnell, Auckland. Each position has been a massive opportunity and a new learning curve. 2015 has involved a number of intense, rewarding projects that include travelling with Bath Street Gallery to two international art fairs, Art Central Hong Kong followed by Sydney Contemporary.
What do you think are the most challenging aspects of those first few years out of art school?
Giving yourself time to find out what you are really interested in and then applying yourself fully. If nothing else, you need to retain the selective and critical abilities learned at art school, whilst also being open minded and a sponge for information and experience.
Have you any advice for those soon to graduate on how to navigate the art world?
Work hard at whatever you are doing but don’t be hard on yourself! Follow your muse. The creative sector is vast and a visual art degree can lead you in many directions that definitely wouldn’t be visible otherwise. If you do stick with the art world, remember to be both ambitious and genuine.
Hi Yasmin, what impact did participating in the mentoring programme have on your career?
Having a mentor helped lessen the shock of coming out of an institution where conversations, support and encouragement were part of everyday life; into the real world where those who are actually interested are few and far between
Who were you paired with for the programme?
I was paired with a young and aspiring curator, named Teresa. We only really met up a few times, and talked about some of my work and inspirations. She encouraged me to keep following my interests.
Have you gone on to mentor other artists yourself?
I have not been a ‘mentor’ as such, but I do like to encourage others with their art practice, particularly those who are starting out and feel unsure of where they are heading. I feel that confidence is often needed and a sense of inner conviction, rather than looking for outside reassurance.
What shape has your career taken since graduating?
After graduation I worked, and made art part-time. My expectations for myself and my artistic ‘career’ were unrealistic. I was also burnt out from studying. In hindsight a ‘career’ as an artist was simply premature for me as I was still unsure of my art. I decided to follow my interests, and I went to Japan. I found a lot of the things I didn’t know I had been looking for, and stayed for nearly 6 years! I met my partner of the next 7 years, an artist/potter with a very solid work ethic. From him I learnt to be much more time-efficient in my making, and to just do it, without worrying about ‘career pathways,’ or where my work was taking me. I stopped feeling like there was any hurry to build a career out of my art practice, being an artist was more likely going to be a life’s work, as opposed to a career. I learned to trust my direction, finding that, over the years, patterns and recurring themes and styles emerged of their own accord. I also learnt to weave and became very interested in ceramics.
How do you retain a balance between your career and the other sides of your life?
My day jobs have always sustained me financially, and freed me up to explore my artistic interests without pressure to be financially successful. Since returning to New Zealand, my job has been much more time-consuming and demanding. I manage a weaving centre for adults with intellectual disabilities (Hohepa Hawke’s Bay). It is a stimulating, creative workplace. I have found that my own art practice can only be sustainable when the rest of my life is healthy. I have had to look after both my physical and mental health, (practising mindfulness meditation and a balance of physical exercise, usually some kind of yoga) be flexible and work around problems; be determined and manage my time well. This is very important as health, family, jobs, moving, income and sometimes even social life can all get very much in the way of making my art.
Artists Alliance is now accepting applications for our 2016 Mentoring Programme. The programme is an excellent opportunity for recent graduates to get some real world guidance from established artists about navigating the arts sector after the security of art school. It is free to participate, however, spaces are limited. See here for a bit more information, eligibility criteria, and to apply: Artists Alliance Mentoring Programme 2016