By Emy Regan, OUR Peer Research Ambassador
When I decided to apply for an IDEA grant, one step in the process really intimidated me. That step was approaching a project mentor. In creative endeavors, finding and approaching a project mentor works a little differently than in research. While there are no publications to read or labs to shadow in, there are artist statements, studio practices, and past work to learn about. These tips can help you select the right mentor, prepare for your first meeting, and ensure that you forge a relationship that will best serve your creative endeavors.
- Do your research: It’s important to understand the work and practice of your potential mentor. Do extensive research on possible mentors. Read their artist statements, write down notes about their past projects and current work, look into their influences. This research is a vital part of finding a mentor who has the interests and experience to best guide you in your creative project. Researching your mentor’s work is also an important way to demonstrate to your mentor that you are passionate about your creative endeavors and truly interested in their guidance and experience.
- Clarify your idea and influences: Write down a clear and concise explanation of your idea. List your influences and include concept sketches or a demonstration of your practice. Print a copy for both you and your mentor to look over during your meeting. This exercise will not only provide your mentor with a straightforward understanding of your ideas, but it will also allow you to refine and clarify your ideas and influences in your own head while you write them down.
- Ask questions: Prepare a list of questions that you feel are important to ask your mentor. Do they have any experience in the medium you’ll be working in? Are their any aspects of their practice that align with yours? What would your meeting schedule look like? It’s important to make sure your schedules and creative practices will work well together over the course of the project.
Finding a mentor can be a challenge. It’s easy to feel intimidated, but the rewards of pushing yourself to build those relationships are so worth it. I have been privileged to develop relationships with multiple mentors during my undergraduate career, and my creative projects have been significantly enhanced due to their input and support. But it all starts with that first conversation! Follow my tips and you’ll be ready to approach your ideal mentor and successfully navigate your first meeting.
Emy is a senior majoring in studio art with a concentration in illustration. Click here to learn more about Emy.