How do mentorships work in the art world? Three North Texas creatives share their views
On Sunday, three North Texas creatives discussed how to build meaningful artistic relationships at a mentorship panel presented by Arts Access and the Dallas Museum of Art. The talk was followed by a speed dating-style discussion in which attendees got to put their new skills to the test.
About 120 people attended the event. Elizabeth Myong, reporter for The Dallas Morning News and KERA partnership Arts Access, led the discussion among panelists Matt Winn, Paulina Dosal-Terminel and Alexandra Pickens, also known as Xela. The panelists started the discussion by sharing their insights on what makes a good mentor-mentee relationship.
Paulina Dosal-Terminel is the program director for Artstillery, a multidisciplinary arts and social justice organization that lifts marginalized voices through original immersive productions and accessible performance space. She said developing a mentor-mentee relationship starts with what kind of goals the mentee is trying to achieve, and should be a step further than, “I want to be better,” or “I want to be a leader.”
“I think having those goals and having that real talk with yourself like, ‘Where do I want to be?’ ‘What do I want to do?’ ‘What do I need to get there?’ ‘What am I missing?’ ” Dosal-Terminel said. “And finding someone, asking them and making sure that they know what that goal is, too.”
Pickens is the founder and co-owner of SupaSonics, a recording studio and audio production company driven by female leadership, where she also serves as the in-house producer and audio engineer. She said she views mentorships like basketball, where a basketball player and coach work together as a team to meet a goal.
“I look at what it means to be coached and to be coachable,” she said. “You have to have that kind of dynamic between learning from somebody and being able to learn and being able to teach and to coach, so within those things you're going to have communication breakdowns, you're going to have disagreements.”
She said the best way to settle challenges is to communicate honestly, effectively and in a healthy way to determine if the relationship is working out or not.
“I think through experience that we come to find our boundaries.” Pickens said. “When you start off with the basics of just being respectful, I think it's easier to just communicate and navigate those waters a little bit better.”
Pickens referenced her networking relationship with Winn, which blossomed on social media, and how beneficial it was to have someone with experience to lean on.
Winn, a creative entrepreneur, is the founder of Independent Recording Arts Society, which helps young artists, as early as high schoolers, develop their music careers. Winn said he started the nonprofit after realizing how difficult it was for him to find resources and tools to navigate the music industry as a teenager.
Winn talked about cultivating supportive networks, or an alliance, to help careers grow,
“I really feel like by going out and meeting people, putting yourself out there, understanding your vision and your values and just being a spokesperson to those, you will naturally attract people who understand what you're talking about and want to be a part in,” Winn said. “You just never know who they may know that can help you get to where you’re trying to go.”
Winn used the phrase, “You don’t need money as much as you need people,” which struck a chord with attendee Tamitha Barbosa Curiel, who works for the Pegasus Media Project.
The nonprofit organization is dedicated to lift and educate future BIPOC filmmakers through immersive training programs, job placement, career opportunities and resources. She said she came to the event for some wisdom for the organization's mentorship program, and Winn’s advice was a good reminder of what it’s like to work for a nonprofit.
“We have to really have a balance between being fiscally responsible and looking for ways to fund our programs, our projects and our artists,” Barbosa Curiel said. “But also making sure that we're seeing, hearing and engaging with art and our artists in a meaningful, productive and encouraging way so that they go out into the world and feel supported.”
After the panel discussion, attendees headed to the Founders Room at the Dallas Museum of Art, where they participated in speed networking. Participants sat at tables and took turns answering a prompt for three minutes before switching to different tables and topics. Once seated, attendees talked about their work or self-care routines, and even exchanged social media handles.
Attendee and fashion photographer Charissa Menken said she hadn’t been to a networking event in so long. She said it was easier for her to find mentorship relationships in college, but now it takes a lot more effort to make connections in the real world.
“Mentorship is such a pertinent topic right now, and I feel like for a lot of us artists, going into 2024, we're striving for that connection, not just peer to peer, but with people that have been in the business,” Menken said. “We're seeking people that have been through what we're trying to go through.”
Arts Access is an arts journalism collaboration powered by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.
This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, The University of Texas at Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.