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MARNmentors: Connecting Artists in Milwaukee

Jun. 29, 2011
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For the past 11 years the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) has been working to empower artists in all media. One of their most powerful programs is called MARNmentors. Each year MARN works with established artists, administrators, filmmakers, curators and more to review applications from emerging artists and arts administrators. The culmination of the mentor/mentee relationship is on display now at Gallerie M (open now and closing July 17) at Downtown's InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel (139 E. Kilbourn Ave.). Melissa Dorn Richards, president of MARN's board of directors, and Melissa Musante, the group's executive director, spoke about MARNmentors.

What is the mission of MARNmentors?

MM: The core mission is to provide an opportunity for emerging artists to connect with their community and get the professional skills they need to build successful careers in Milwaukee. The mentees make connections they would never have made otherwise and, because they are in the program, they get to go to all the professional development programs for free.

How do you match mentors and mentees?

MDR: In the mentee's application, they make it clear what they need help with, and the mentors review the applications and choose a mentee based on who they think they can help the most. Some artists need help with meeting people and talking to gallery owners about their work, while others need help in their studio practice. In pairing the established artists with the emerging artists a personal connection is made and the relationship focuses on what that protégé needs to move forward in their career.

Why is the MARNmentor program important to Milwaukee?

MDR: There is a lot of talent being produced from MIAD and UW-Milwaukee and other area schools, and what we don't want to happen is for all that talent to leave. So we thought, “What would make somebody stay here?” We looked to the established artists that have built a career and figured out how to make it work to give guidance to emerging artists. The goal is to offer opportunities to emerging artists and introduce them to opportunities that they may not have known about otherwise.

Do you think the program will change the Milwaukee arts environment?

MDR: I think it already has. We have already seen stronger connections between MIAD and UW-Milwaukee and emerging and established artists as well as a wider variety of people attending exhibitions.

MM: In the 2009/2010 season a number of musicians from the MARNmentor exhibition ended up connecting with the performance artists and working together, and that is what I see as the strength of this program moving forward—artists doing more collaboration across disciplines.

What can viewers expect to see in the current exhibition at Gallerie M

MM: A not-to-be-missed show, because we have assembled some of the top artists in the Milwaukee area and they have chosen emerging artists whom they believe in. So if you love the arts in Milwaukee, you will probably want to be watching these up-and-coming artists.


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