Mentorships are a powerful means for anyone to develop new skills, connections, and pathways in their chosen profession. Recognising this, Helpmann Academy, with the support from a passionate giving circle of key philanthropic patrons, offers the Elevate Mentorship Program.

With projects valued at up to $3000 each, Elevate Mentorships are an artist-led form of learning, where emerging creatives can define their own professional development goals, and work with more experienced practitioners to achieve them. For some this can mean pursuing support and guidance to develop skills related to their craft – be that artistic, musical, production, film or more. For others, this can be an opportunity to focus on the development of business skills related to being a sole-trader – such as networking, marketing, or strategic planning.

The beauty of a mentorship is the capacity to mould the project to the needs of those involved.

Mentorships can be built to respond to time constraints, with some projects being undertaken in short intensive timeframes, while others can be stretched over longer time periods and involve multiple consultations with a mentor.

With modern technology, these projects are not confined geographically, as emerging creatives can now easily connect with experienced professionals all over the world through mentorship projects that utilise online tools, or that harness a hybridisation of online and in-person consultations.

Stephanie Doddridge, Gourds, 2023. Porcelain, glaze, body stain, watercolour, plant dyes, calendula, dandelion. Photo: Sam Roberts, courtesy the artist

Stephanie Doddridge is a local emerging multidisciplinary artist currently undertaking a mentorship with South Australian visual artist Bridget Currie. Together they have been navigating exhibition experiences, while planning how Stephanie can grow her practice into the future.

“The mentorship has supported me in navigating the production and curation of my first solo exhibition, along with planning my second solo exhibition and finding future opportunities” says Doddridge.

“The mentorship has been incredibly valuable to me and my practice. With Bridget’s input in the final production and curation, I successfully put on my first solo exhibition at the gallery at St Peters Town Hall and ended up winning the SALA City Rural Emerging Artist Award for one of my pieces in the exhibition… Bridget was able to guide me with pricing my artworks, on how to liaise with gallery staff, and was there to reassure me before my speech on opening night.”

Stelarc on a site visit with Anika Gardner ahead of the Palmer Sculpture Biennial. Photo courtesy Anika Gardner

Anika Gardner has had the rare opportunity this year to be mentored by one of Australia’s most iconic contemporary visual artists, Stelarc. Together the pair have embarked on an interrogation of the intersections of robotics, cognitive sciences and art, to support the development of Gardner’s future work.

“I have had the opportunity to ask Stelarc many questions about philosophy, fabrication and his career with robotics art,” Gardner says.

“We have completed several Zooms, and have successfully worked together to develop a prototype for the Palmer Sculpture Biennial.

“We have had great chats about current trends in robotics and computational analysis, and how our art practices can intersect. I have learnt some good lessons about letting the artistic process guide, and not the scientific mindset – ie, not being outcome-focussed! Stelarc has even come and visited the site to better work on the project with me.”

Cello player Kate Hwang in Pilgrim Church in March 2020. Photo: Brenton Edwards / AAP

Kate Hwang, a local emerging musician, has been undertaking one-on-one lessons with Hyung Suk Bae, the associate principal cellist at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. These lessons are focussed on standard orchestral excerpts and concerto pieces, and are complemented by regular rehearsals with piano accompaniment.

“So far I have had around five lessons with Hyung and four rehearsals with [accompanist] Mizusa. I have received lots of positive feedback on my playing and now have a greater understanding of the pieces through this project,” she says.

“This mentorship program has also pushed me to learn and adapt quickly, which has improved my playing immensely. I have also been able to deal better with my performance anxiety as I gain more experience”.

These relationships between mentees and their mentors is testament to the power of mentorships to support emerging artists to flourish in their chosen field through bespoke projects. These projects also reveal how the impact of mentoring stretches beyond the scope of professional practice, to inspire confidence and spark ambition for the future.

Applications for the Helpmann Academy Elevate Mentorship Program are currently open, and close on November 5, 2023, at 11.59pm. Applications can be made online here. The Elevate Mentorship Program is presented by Commonwealth Private as major partner and program champion, and supported through a giving circle of key philanthropic patrons.

Henry Wolff is a visual artist and arts worker living and working on Kaurna Country.

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