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The Importance of People: Your stories - Part 4

Surround yourself with people you trust: and who encourage you to keep going.

As an artist, you can’t suddenly expect to become an accountant, a marketer, a website designer and a salesperson overnight. Yet a successful business needs them all in order to really take flight. Performance poet Rob Gee, whose award-winning show Forget Me Not is currently touring the UK, always surrounds himself with a team of experts in the above: “I’ve always found it really hard to be mithered with all that [marketing], which isn’t a problem if you can team up with someone who’s good at it – then you can focus on your product, the thing you do.”

Mentoring – either formal or informal – is also cited as an important nutrient in an artist’s growth. Director at Leicester Print Workshop Lucy Phillips offers:

“I have always sought out advice and mentoring relationships, even if it has not been formal mentoring, to find out how things have been done and can be done, mainly to help me find the right way for me.”

Mentoring gives you something to strive for, suggests Marie Lefebvre of Footpaths, a community based project which provides the platforms and tools for people to reduce their carbon footprint and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. “The best way to learn is to work with someone who has experience. Strive to learn as much as you can and do what you are asked as best as you can. Model them until you know your craft. We all need a mentor to elevate ourselves,” she says.

Megan Powell Vreeswijk is on the other side of the fence as a mentor herself, running The Studio, a graduate development hub which supports a small number of graduates from Loughborough University to develop their business ideas and take them to commercialisation. What does a mentor get out of the relationship? “I believe I am one of the privileged people of this world,” she smiles. “I get to work with and help develop some of the most amazingly brave, ambitious and determined people you will ever meet. I work with Creative Entrepreneurs from all over the world, some facing financial hardship, others political challenges and many of them fighting with themselves to overcome their own fears and find out if they are strong enough to make it.

“I get to see these young businesses develop – not only into companies that are growing and taking on staff, creating opportunities and growing the economy – but as individuals.”

“I meet most of them fresh out of university, with one of the most confusing worlds in front of them, and I am given the privilege of helping them find their way through it. I have the best job ever.” It seems the mentor really can get as much out of the relationship as the mentee.

Tim Sayers, Arts In Health Co-ordinator for Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, also advises to move on swiftly from those who don’t share your vision – yet. He shares that the hardest challenges he has overcome are “discrimination and negativity”, adding “I overcome them by going elsewhere then waiting for them to knock at the door.” It’s that thick skin again. Not everyone will think you are a creative genius.

People not believing in you” is described as Anand Bhatt’s hardest challenge. His philosophy?

“Everything is about context. Gatekeepers often do not have time to understand your background and see how far you have travelled to get to where you are. Sometimes you stumble not knowing the right thing to say – they will judge you. That can take a long time to work yourself out of. But this is the same in real life. You have to be persistent, and when you find the right context again, you can unleash yourself more comfortably.

As Tim and Anand both attest, opportunities often come round again. Leaving a trail of burning bridges in your wake never serves a long term goal, as other people’s roles, ambitions and ideas are evolving just like yours are. Keep an open mind: collaboration is one of the most creative, exciting and lucrative ways of working as an artist.

There will be lots more on collaborating in future blogs.

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