Updated: Apr 1, 2021
By Geraldine Ysselstein
A lot of what we learn in the arts is through mentorship; whether formally or informally, from our board, volunteers, staff, or community members. The definition I like for mentorship is:
“Mentorship is a system of semi-structured guidance whereby one person shares their knowledge, skills and experience to assist others to progress in their own lives and careers.” (University of Cambridge)
There is immense value in identifying a mentor who can help connect knowledge with practice. Furthermore, mentees can develop valuable skills and knowledge from their mentor, skip painful and lengthy trial and error processes, feel encouraged in their role, make career transitions, grow networks, and appreciate different perspectives. And there is value for the mentor too because they are respected in the knowledge they have accumulated, are exposed to new ideas from their mentee, and feel a renewed passion for the arts sector.
Mentorship, it should be said, is not just giving advice, doing the work for the mentee, expecting them to do it your way, or counselling. The mentoring relationship should be tailored to the mentee’s learning needs whereby the relationship between the mentee and mentor is one of trust, respect, and is confidential. Mentoring is also different from coaching which is more self-directed and specific. Coaching focuses on improving a specific skill or task while mentoring can have a more open and evolving agenda. The definitions are admittedly blurry and it seems the activities of both are most often combined into the term "mentorship”.
When I asked 2014 Rozsa Award recipient Rose Brow, now the Executive Director at Vertigo Theatre, why she values mentorship, she shared “I am a product of it. People invested in me and no doors were closed. They identified that I could have access to the ideas I wanted.” Mentorship is ingrained in Vertigo Theatre. "Mentorship has been instrumental in my success as an Arts Leader," says Brow.
"Throughout my career people I deeply respect have invested in me. They provided opportunities, shared learning, and inspired me to learn and grow. The benefits of mentorship I have received has instilled a lifelong commitment to continuous learning in me and the work I do." (Rose Brow)
Mentorship is a concept we often discuss in our Rozsa Arts Leadership Programs, and it manifests in certain, limited forms. We offer training from arts and business experts and peer-to-peer mentorship takes place in the classroom, but we are looking at ways to integrate it even more deliberately. We recognize that professional development is important for developing a toolkit of skills for individuals and that structured mentorship can be necessary to provide guidance as an individual applies those skills in practice.
As a result, over the next 6 months, we will be inviting executive arts leaders into a mentorship pilot project with Rose Brow serving as the mentor. "Mentorship and training is one of Vertigo Theatre’s key values. As an organization with resources and capacity, we believe it is our responsibility to help develop the next generation of arts leaders."
We at the Rozsa Foundation are excited to collaborate with Rose on developing a mentorship program that bridges the gap between the Rozsa Executive Arts Leadership (REAL) program and the Rozsa Awards.
The value of mentorship is the building of long-lasting relationships in the arts and culture sector. Do you provide mentoring experiences for your employees? Are you interested in talking more about mentorship opportunities as a mentor/mentee? If yes, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resources/Programs that you might be interested in:
3. Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC) Mentorship Competency Charts and Profiles (Available to CHRC members)