Finding Quality Mentoring Examples in the Arts

By Barry Sweeny, 2010

As I search the web for “mentoring in the arts” and other such key words I find plenty of hits. However, on closer examination, I also find that many sites and people who claim the name of “mentor” are really doing only some parts of what best practice considers to BE mentoring.

Realizing this fact is important for people seeking a mentor in the arts.

It’s vital because you may not get the kind or range of support, challenge, and guidance that you expect from a “mentor”.

It’s also important for anyone seeking to understand and design to deliver good practice in arts mentoring.

It is critical because, if you model what you do after some of what is called “mentoring”, yours will definitely MISS a large part of what good mentoring includes, and it may not be very effective as a result.

To understand this difference between the universal NAME of “Mentor” and what good mentoring actually includes, I have provided below a summary of a page titled the “Roles of Effective Mentors”. We can use this to examine what folks are calling mentoring in the arts.

 


AN EFFECTIVE MENTOR SHOULD BE:

  1. A HELPER BY BEING:
    1. A RESOURCE
    2. A GIVER OF TIME, ENERGY & SUPPORT
    3. A LINKER TO RESOURCES
  2. A COLLEAGUE BY BEING:
    1. AN ADVOCATE FOR THE PROTEGE
    2. A CELEBRANT TO SHARING GROWTH MILESTONES AND BUILDING SELF CONFIDENCE
    3. A CONFIDANTE – ESTABLISHING MUTUAL TRUST & REGARD
    4. A LISTENER – CARING ABOUT THE PROTEGE
  3. A MODEL BY BEING:
    1. A FACILITATOR
    2. A QUESTIONER
    3. A VISIONARY
    4. REFLECTIVE
    5. A SITUATIONAL LEADER THAT IS :
      1. A TEACHER
      2. A MOTIVATOR
      3. A LEADER
      4. A NEEDS ASSESSOR
      5. FLEXIBLE

When a dance teacher or art teacher (for example) says they are a “mentor”, we also know there are good and bad teachers. That should tell us that there are likely to be good and not so good mentors too. The above listing would prompt us to ask, “In addition to teaching, in what ways are they also:

  • a needs assessor, for certainly a mentor individualizes support based on the protege’s needs;
  • a facilitator, not a “sage on the stage” know-it-all type teacher
  • an effective listener, so he/she would know the goals and needs of the protege
  • or any of the other roles of effective mentors.
Whether we are seeking an arts mentor for ourselves or wanting to create an arts mentoring program, the “Roles” ideal and these kinds of questions will be a big help in determining if what we find during our search will meet our needs and expectations. Please use this approach as you review some of the links to art mentors and arts mentoring programs below. This area is truly a case of “buyer beware” so WE need to do our home work to ensure good choices.