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When sparks fly : developing formal mentoring programs for the career development of young and emerging artists

By Joon-Yee Kwok


Formal mentoring programs are accepted as a valuable strategy for developing young and emerging artists. This thesis presents the results of an evaluation of the SPARK National Young Artists Mentoring Program (SPARK). SPARK was a ten-month formal mentoring program managed by Youth Arts Queensland (YAQ) on behalf of the Australia Council for the Arts from 2003-2009. The program aimed to assist young and emerging Australian artists between the ages of 18-26 to establish a professional career in the arts. It was a highly successful formal arts mentoring program that facilitated 58 mentorships between young and emerging artists and professional artists from across Australia in five program rounds over its seven year lifespan. Interest from other cultural organisations looking to develop their own formal mentoring programs encouraged YAQ to commission this research to determine how the program works to achieve its effects. This study was conducted with young and emerging artists who participated in SPARK from 2003 to 2008. It took a theory-driven evaluation approach to examine SPARK as an example of what makes formal arts mentoring programs effective. It focused on understanding the program’s theory or how the program worked to achieve its desired outcomes. The program activities and assumed responses to program activities were mapped out in a theories of change model. This theoretical framework was then used to plan the points for data collection. Through the process of data collection, actual program developments were compared to the theoretical framework to see what occurred as expected and what did not. The findings were then generalised for knowledge and wider application. The findings demonstrated that SPARK was a successful and effective program and an exemplar model of a formal mentoring program preparing young and emerging artists for professional careers in the arts. They also indicate several ways in which this already strong program could be further improved, including: looking at the way mentoring relationships are set up and how the mentoring process is managed; considering the balance between artistic and professional development; developing career development competencies and networking skills; taking into account the needs of young and emerging artists to develop their professional identity and build confidence; and giving more thought to the desired program outcomes and considering the issue of timeliness and readiness for career transition. From these findings, together with principles outlined in the mentoring and career development literature, a number of necessary conditions have been identified for developing effective mentoring programs in the career development of young and emerging artists

Topics: arts career, arts mentoring, career development, formal mentoring program, program theory, theories of change, young and emerging artist
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
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