bang Bang BANG: Letitia Ivins on the APAL Mentorship Program

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Letitia Ivins, civic art program associate of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s Civic Art Program, blogs about Emerging Arts Leaders/LA's APAL mentorship program.

 

 

 

This title is neither violent onomatopoeia nor a Femi Kuti reference, rather I quote my mom’s favorite phrase which is synonymous to “check, check, check.”  While I’d cringe whenever my mom exclaimed this in her Filipino accent, I think it captures my enthusiasm around the three key accomplishments (some unexpected) that resulted from the Los Angeles emerging leader mentorship program.

People rarely wield the science to invent and hand-craft their own mentor. I’ve observed that mentors tend to emerge in unlikely places and heighten or recede in their presence throughout one’s life. But, in 2007, a nine-member taskforce of Los Angeles Emerging Arts Leaders (EAL/LA) had lost patience with an organic model of mentor acquisition, and began scheming on how to meet a dream career mentor through professional connections and a structured program.

After a year of monthly meetings to strategize recruitment, the matching process, the structure, marketing, and evaluation, we officially launched the Arts Professional Advisors Link (APAL) in the fall of 2008. Each emerging leader member completed an “application” which described professional development needs and wants in a mentor. As a team, we reviewed one another’s applications and leveraged our connections, to help match advisors to the profiles drawn up in the applications. Advisees were charged with all of the administrative work around the program and were to initiate and organize all advisor meetings (four at the least) over the course of the program year. The advisee was to steer the content of the meeting conversations and bring clear, yearlong goals to the table around which the advisor might provide guidance. Over the course of the year, we threw a kick-off orientation mixer, a mid-year opera outing and mixer and a culminating mixer. 

Come winter 2009, the EAL/LA had completed its pilot mentorship program, APAL, an experiment which yielded unexpected, yet empowering results. bang.  You can read more about creating mentorship programs in your community by using this Mentorship Toolkit.

What I found most remarkable about both the planning process and execution of APAL was the initiative, resourcefulness, and commitment of the APAL taskforce (ultimately termed “hub”). While the success of the advisor/advisee relationships varied, hub members agree that the development of the APAL program was perhaps as professionally fulfilling as the mentorships themselves. The group of 8 members of the pilot program brewed in a bond-making process over the course of two full planning and execution years. Throughout, we counseled, commiserated, consoled, cavorted, even stepped back to concoct a framework for the then fledgling EAL/LA network. (Two of the original planning hub members were swept away by Graduate school and another chose to focus his extracurricular attention to art-making, so the planning hub invited three additional advisees to participate in the program to fill the gap).

This APAL hub was an invaluable, one-of-a-kind cohort of young, ambitious, motivated, and like-minded doers. We reveled in the rewards of not only our advisor relationship, but also in our peer mentor relationships which deepened over happy-hour program planning and the internet through our private google group where we would dish on our advisor exchanges. The hub served as a catalyst for the LA network and as a support group for members who changed jobs, received promotions, had babies and went to graduate school all between 2008 and 2009. I believe that our professional gratification and, therefore, willingness to remain in the nonprofit arts sector was reinforced by the necessary interactions in planning the APAL program. Bang.

I am most proud of the APAL hub’s self-awareness (we knew the need for mentorship existed) showed willingness to work in order to have the need met! This project provides an ideal platform for emerging leaders to exercise their leadership in a proactive way that counters any misguided perceptions floating around in the field that young professionals are lazy whiners. Now that the pilot program is done and we have served ourselves with an extended network, a seasoned leader connection, and all the riches of those relationships, we are pleased to pass on this unexpectedly rewarding administrative experience to the next class of 20 advisees. It truly can be that through the seemingly unsavory work of administration that peer relationships yield job growth and career satisfaction.

This project highlights the intrinsic value of project-based emerging leader networks where we can build our own platform for leadership in addressing our own professional needs and simultaneously lay a solid foundation for the next emerging leaders to do the same all for the health of the arts field. In fact, it was through this first, project-driven, APAL hub and its members, that the entire EAL/LA network was reborn. BANG.

Letitia Fernandez Ivins is the civic art program associate of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s Civic Art Program. She was drawn to the public art field with a passion for contemporary art, particularly that which has a presence in the public sphere, investigates social, geographical, and aesthetic conditions, incites meaningful experiences for a broad public, and inspires social critique. As the civic art program associate, she interfaces with artists, government stakeholders, capital project managers, and community members to produce high quality, lasting and innovative artwork for public spaces. She has worked in the arts sector for over nine years at the Getty Foundation, Ryman Arts and the Arts Commission. She is a board advisor to Outpost for Contemporary Art, a co-chair of the Public Art Coalition of Southern California, a past discussion leader for the Getty’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program, and member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council, the Emerging Arts Leaders Los Angeles network and the Museum Educators of Southern California.

To learn more about Emerging Arts Leaders/LA and get involved with APAL, please join the Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/emergingartsla or find EAL/LA on Facebook.