CARFAC Mentorship Continues Connections Online

By: Dave Margoshes April, 2021

Mentors provide “one­on­one encouragement, advice, information, and resources to mentees, who are aiming to achieve specific goals across a range of career stages.” The essence of mentorships is a one­on­one, usually face­to­face relationship. The pandemic, of course, changed everything.

For CARFAC, its mentorship program provides opportunities for artist pairs to meet for a minimum of seven hours per month for the duration of the program. In 2020, interactions were mostly at a distance via the Internet.

Though the program has carried on, the pandemic certainly extracted a price.

Terri Fidelak, CARFAC Saskatchewan’s program and outreach director, says the program “creates opportunities for productive and supportive relationships between established creative professionals and artists wishing to develop and enhance their practices.” One of the most valuable aspects of the program is the opportunity for all the participants to get together, she says. “That relationship building leads to all sorts of possibilities.” COVID­19 took those gatherings online, and “we are grateful to still find some connection,” she says.

Holly Fay, assistant professor of art, University of Regina, who is currently mentoring a young artist, Patrick Fernandez, comments that, “it is much better to view art in person” than online. Fortunately, though, Fernandez had an exhibition up at the start of the mentorship program so she was able to view some of his work in person.

“Ideally, we would be discussing his work in progress through studio visits.” Instead, “Pat and I have been looking at, and discussing, drawings he is making via Zoom...It’s not the best way, but it works and I believe it’s been effective. The other focus of our mentorship project has been on professional practice (the business side of art), which we are able to work on over Zoom and email quite well.”

Fernandez says “the absence of in­person mentorship has its pros and cons.” He regrets not being able to have in­person meetings, but “the experience for me so far has been all positive and I am very much satisfied with the results.”

Aside from the mentorship program, CARFAC has been able to continue its operations relatively smoothly through the pandemic, though many plans “had to be postponed, cancelled, rescheduled, rethought, or otherwise significantly adjusted,” Fidelak says. As an example, Saskatchewan CARFAC partnered with its Alberta counterpart to host a series of webinars for artists and arts organizers.

In the early days of the pandemic, CARFAC made small offerings of financial assistance to Saskatchewan’s artistic community through distribution of an Emergency Relief Fund. “We’re doing our best to support artists and arts organizers, who’ve been dealt a heavy blow over the last year,” Fidelak says.

The Saskatchewan chapter of CARFAC, the organization for visual artists ­ an abbreviation for Canadian Artists’ Representation/Les Front des Artistes Canadiens ­ began its Mentorship program in 2000. Over the 20­year period, some 350 artists and curators have been involved as mentors and mentees, usually with eight pairs of artists each year.

CARFAC receives support from SaskCulture thanks to funding from Sask Lotteries.