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New mentorship program pairs alumni with recent fine arts graduates

First phase of Art Volt, a new Faculty of Fine Arts platform designed to support its alumni, is open for applications
May 20, 2020
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By Olivier Du Ruisseau and Andy Murdoch

Art Volt aims to establish a large, self-sustaining, by-alumni, for-alumni professional network. Art Volt aims to establish a large, self-sustaining, by-alumni, for-alumni professional network.

Recent alumni and students graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts now have someone to lean on for advice as they enter the working world at an unstable time.

Art Volt, a new platform designed to support Faculty of Fine Arts alumni, launches its mentorship program this week, and it features an impressive list of award-winning alumni mentors from a wide range of creative backgrounds.

The mentorship program is phase one of an ambitious professionalization and support service made possible by the Peter N. Thompson Family Innovation Fund. Art Volt plans to launch multiple programs over the course of the next year, revolving around four  axes: mentorship, professional training, residencies and a loan and sell collection service.

“I am thrilled to see Leslie Raenden’s original idea realized at a time when our graduating students and recent alumni are in particular need,” says Rebecca Duclos, dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

“These mentorship opportunities will be invaluable for graduating students and recent alumni. Working side by side with such a formidable cohort of alumni will give new graduates an immeasurable boost of professional confidence and experience,” says Raenden, a representative of the Peter N. Thomson Family Trust.

‘I strongly believe in the power of mentorship’

Amy Blackmore, Executive and Artistic Director of the MainLine Theatre and the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, is a mentor. Amy Blackmore, Executive and Artistic Director of the MainLine Theatre and the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, is a mentor.

Students and alumni have until June 7 to apply to become a Mentee. Applicants must be students completing their last semester at Concordia or be alumni who have completed their degree within the last three years.

For this pilot edition of the program, Art Volt has brought ten well-established professionals and Concordia alumni on board as mentors. Featured on the Art Volt website, they are: Adam Basanta (2020 Sobey Award winner), Amy Blackmore, Christine Redfern, Frankie Fiore, Geneviève Wallen, Jonathan Shaughnessy, the duo Leisure (Meredith Carruthers and Susannah Wesley), Melissa-Ann Ledo, Mouna Andraos, and Zoë Tousignant.

Selected mentees will work with their chosen mentors for about one year, during which time they will also benefit from different networking opportunities.

The exact goals, activities and reach of the mentorship program will vary, explains Fannie Gadouas, the coordinator of Art Volt. Every applicant will be asked to explain how the pairing up with their chosen mentor would benefit their professional lives and personal goals.

“Every outcome depends on the distinct pairing between the graduating student or alumni and the mentors, and on the goals they decide to set together,” says Gadouas.

Mentor Amy Blackmore, Executive and Artistic Director of the MainLine Theatre and the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, wishes this program had been available when she graduated from the Contemporary Dance program.

“I strongly believe in the power of mentorship, in the strength of having an outside eye to review or enhance one’s work.”

‘We’re ready to face the necessary challenges’

“It’s the human connections that nurture and feed the tight arts community we have here,” says Dean Rebecca Duclos. “It’s the human connections that nurture and feed the tight arts community we have,” says Dean Rebecca Duclos.

Over the course of the program, mentees will benefit from eight one-on-one mentorship sessions. Mentees and Mentors will also be invited to attend a “Field-trip” event, allowing mentees to discover new resources and new spaces in the city.

Despite the disruptions and restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Gadouas says that the Art Volt team is “ready to face the necessary challenges. We’re doing what it takes to ensure that students graduating during this period feel supported.”

Art Volt will host a Digital Idea Lab on Friday May 22nd from 11a.m. to 1p.m., focused on answering the question “How can we help?”

A series of organized workshops and training sessions hosted by local art institutions and professionals will kick off Art Volt's Professional Training program in the coming months.

The Residency program will provide selected applicants with long or short-term access to studio spaces, art facilities and equipment. There is currently an open call for a Community Arts Residency at Bâtiment 7 in Pointe St-Charles. This program is presented in collaboration with Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement.     

Art Volt's Collection will work as a loan and sales service of selected artworks across many mediums. It will be managed by recent alumni “advisors,” who will act as curators. The goal is to increase the visibility of Concordia alumni and to make space for them in a professional art setting.

‘Building long-term bridges between individuals at various points in their careers’

Blackmore believes that the current pandemic will force both mentors and mentees to come up with new ways of connecting with their audiences.

“As we will meet, most probably digitally, we’ll be able to inspire each other to push our respective practices in new directions,” she says.

Blackmore adds that although her skill set mostly revolves around dance and theatre, she can work with students from other artistic disciplines.

“Once you’re an artist, you’re an artist,” she says. “Many of the competencies we learn are transferable and can be useful across disciplines.”

Ultimately, the ambitious goal of Art Volt is to establish a large, self-sustaining by-alumni, for-alumni professional network, “between dozens of artists and partner institutions, full of potential resources for graduating students,” says Gadouas.

 “Each new relationship that develops from the program serves to support and nurture artistic practice in Montreal and builds long-term bridges between individuals at various points in their careers and in their lives,” says Duclos. 

“It’s the human connections that nurture and feed the tight arts community we have here.”

To learn more about Art Volt and to stay up to date about its programs, subscribe to its newsletter by emailing artvolt@concordia.ca and follow Art Volt on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Art-Volt-Art-Volte-107330830960851



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