Mentorships

Christopher Orchard and Fran Callen. Photograph Aise Dillon.

Download this toolkit as a pdf.

Mentorships are an excellent opportunity for artists to develop their practice. When established well, they provide a unique and often exclusive learning opportunity that supports you to learn new skills and impacts your practice in ways that you might not otherwise have access to. But establishing clear guidelines for your mentorship can be tricky for both the mentor and mentee, so we’ve developed this toolkit to help participants manage expectations and create a mentorship that produces winning outcomes.

What should the aims and goals of my mentorship look like?
Think about your current practice and where you want your practice positioned within the industry. What goals do you need to set to attain that position? Consider some of the specific skills you want to learn to help you achieve your goals – is it a creative technique or business knowledge? This will help you to identify your potential mentor.
Ensure you have time to dedicate to your mentorship goals. Time spent with your mentor is a small part of the mentorship process, and you will need to continue to work on building your skills outside of that time.

Zoe Woods and Andrew Baldwin. Photograph Aise Dillon

How do I choose my mentor?
A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. When selecting a mentor you might like to consider the following:
– what experience can the mentor bring to my practice?
– what qualities within the artist or their work would my practice benefit from?
– what are my own career goals and how does my proposed mentor fit within them?
– does the mentor have time in their schedule to dedicate?
Choose someone who is not only supportive, but challenging. You will need to be open to feedback about your work, and you should feel comfortable in the process.

How do I approach my mentor?
If you know your mentor present a short but concise plan for the mentorship to them. Outline what you would like to achieve and what you hope their role as mentor will provide to them. Let them know from the outset the structure (ie contact time) and their fee.
If you do not personally know your mentor an introductory email that explains you and your practice and establishes the mentor’s availability is a good first step. Guildhouse provides assistance to our financial members and may be able to support you with identifying a mentor and early introductions.

Tips for being a great mentee
Be clear in your needs, but be flexible with outcomes. There may be some unexpected results as your mentorship runs its course, and you should be open to that.
Respect your mentor. Be committed, show your mentor that you value their time and yours. Your mentor will critique your practice and methodology, be open to feedback and feel comfortable discussing your work in this manner. You will need to be prepared for and welcoming of critical dialogue around your practice. You may not agree with all of the advice a mentor gives you. It’s ok to disagree, discuss the things you disagree on and be open to the other person’s point of view.

Tips for being a great mentor
Be genuine and generous. Provide advice that supports and challenges the mentor. Research the mentee and check that their professional practice goals are in line with your experience.
Be clear in your expectations and what you both want to deliver over the course of the project.
Be forthcoming about the trials and tribulations in your practice, including your own mistakes.

Eugenia Neave and Becci Bromilow. Photograph Aise Dillon

How do you fund a mentorship?
Paid mentoring opportunities are available through various arts organisations. Subscribe to their emails and follow their social media for information about call outs. You can also apply for grants through government and philanthropic organisations.
If you’re undertaking unfunded or informal professional development support from a peer the guidelines in this toolkit still apply.

What does a mentorship budget look like?
See our budget toolkit for more budget advice.
When listing expenditure consider the amount of hours work from both parties, travel expenses, material expenses. Income will include the mentorship fee from the funding organisation and any other additional income streams (grants or personal monies) dedicated to the mentorship and associated artists practice at this time.

Navigating the challenges
Things don’t always go to plan, so it’s important to be flexible. Keep an open line of communication at all times and be sure to discuss any issues as soon as they arise to prevent them from growing in to bigger problems.
Be clear about the difference between opposing opinions on subjective or creative issues, and the issues that might be preventing your mentorship from progressing and reaching its full potential.
Set milestone dates throughout the mentorship to ensure that you are both achieving the goals set out and ensure to establish an end date outlined at the beginning of your mentorship so that you both have parameters to work toward.

Guildhouse currently runs CATAPULT, a three year career development mentorship program for South Australian artists, craftspeople and designers, generously funded by visionary philanthropic organisation, The Ian Potter Foundation. The program provides creative professionals with essential funding and support to enable them to further develop their careers through a six to eight month mentorship.

Guildhouse financial members are able to obtain one on one professional development support about many areas of their practice. Contact us for more information.