Performing Mentorship: Investigating Mentorship in 4 Arts for Social Change Creative Spaces and Contexts
Principal Investigator: Lynn Fels; 
Co-Investigator Jen Spiegel;
Community Investigators – Shira Taylor, Lisa Ndejuru, Callista Chasse, Nicole Armos;
Research Assistant – Marlies Grindlay;
SSHRC Insight Development Grant

Artists engaged in arts for social change (ASC) enable marginalized communities to create ideas and actions for meaningful change. ASC’s interdisciplinary nature requires mentorship that enables ASC practitioners to share and exchange knowledge in a sustainable, intergenerational way. Yet many Canadian ASC professionals are approaching retirement and young artists are increasingly required to draw upon their own experience and that of other young artists for professional development. Addressing this need is critical: mentorship can strengthen ASC scholarship, pedagogy, and knowledge exchange, thus increasing opportunities for ASC practitioners and their work to contribute to communities across Canada.

Conventional mentorship models do not reflect the organic style and creative nature of artistic practices. Central to reimagining mentorship in the arts is the notion of mentorship as performance,which may serve as a creative catalyst to empower and support social innovations in the arts. To understand the complexity of mentorship in the ASC practice and arts education pedagogy, this research will:

  • examine mentorship of youth arts facilitators for leadership development, youth empowerment, and community capacity building;
  • investigate a model of artist mentorship for developing and performing difficult stories;
  • identify new pedagogical strategies and artistic practices for mentorship of ASC artists, facilitators, and researchers
  • investigate how mentorship can better reflect the social and cultural realities and aspirations of emerging artists and activists.

We will undertake 4 field studies in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and Cyberspace;. Each study engages different methodologies: 1) participatory action research; 2) case study and performative inquiry; 3) archival research with reflective interviews, and 4) mixed methods involving video and text analysis, interviews, and journal writing.

This research will take a four-prong approach:

  • Field Study 1 will employ participatory action research to explore how a youth theatre group may build sustainability, youth agency, and community capacity through mentorship in Toronto;
  • Field Study 2 will engage performative inquiry to explore mentorship as practiced and experienced by Lisa Ndejuru, leading to a performance in Montreal;
  • Field Study 3 will be a conceptualization of mentorship evolving from a project in social circus with community based organizations in downtown Winnipeg;
  • Field Study 4 will use the lens of reflective inquiry to understand how mentorship may be performed in digital space among the research team members.

The purpose is to study the theory and practices of performing mentorship from 4 perspectives, gathering information from 4 field studies situated in different performative spaces and contexts. Each field study will be led by collaborators who bring unique expertise and experience to the research. Findings from these research sites will be synthesized to inform our theorizing of mentorship as performance.

This study will contribute to our understanding of mentorship as reciprocal and generative. Theorizing of mentorship as performance will provide new language, relationships, and insights into the dynamics of mentorship within educational and creative spaces and expand dialogue on how performative research methods are viable alternatives for portraying artists’ engagement in educational and artistic inquiries. This research will prepare graduate students, early career scholars, and community professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to problem-solve and build professional relationships across diverse communities. Finally, it will offer new models of mentorship for ASC that foreground the fluidity and complexity of artistic practices in lights of social innovation.

Note: This is a secure site visible only to the researchers and participators.