Peer-led Mentoring Program gathered a record number of artist participants  

Artists Meetup! social gathering at Galleria Huuto in June 2023 Photo: Aukusti Heinonen

The Peer-led Mentoring Program for visual artists has launched for the second time through collaboration among the operators of the Art House. Nearly 100 artists from seven member organisations are involved. The peer-led mentoring program is part of the collaborative service development work of the House of Visual Arts network, are further developed and integrated into the operations of the House of Visual Arts.

The goal of the peer mentoring program is to provide support for various aspects of artistic practice and to strengthen professional identity. Offered to participants as a free member service, the year-long mentoring process is based on sharing skills, knowledge, and experiences in small groups among colleagues, artist to artist.

The small groups organize their activities themselves and decide themes to discuss in the meetings and when and in what matter they meet. Participation on the peer mentoring program requires commitment not only to regular meetings in small groups but also participation in the program’s collective meetings.

Coordinated by the House of Visual Arts, the Peer-led Mentoring Program is now launching for the second time. Nearly 100 artists are participating from seven artist organizations: Av-Arkki, Helsinki Artist’s Association, Artist’s Association MUU, Finnish Painter’s Union, Finnish Comics Society and Association of Photographic Artists. For the first time this year, some of the small groups have been formed also transcending organizational boundaries, according to participants’ wishes.

Peer support to the daily life of an artist

Multimedia artist Ida Nisonen participated in the program in the year 2021, coordinated by the Association of Photographic Artists. It was during the corona pandemic, so Nisonen only met the small group remotely. Despite the different backgrounds of the group members, Nisonen notes that they quickly bonded together.

– Everyone wanted as much as possible out of the program. We were committed, Nisonen says.

According to her, the pandemic emphasized the loneliness that artists can often experience anyway.

Art is communal. It should be done together, even if the work is carried out alone.

Nisonen comparesparticipating in the peer-led mentoring program to a new relationship and describes the process as a good empathy exercise. It requires patience, the ability to listen, and enough time and space to get to know each other.

She explains that the process has brought her courage to openly discuss topics that she used to shy away from. With the support of her small group, she has also transitioned working as a full-time artist and left her day job.

Nisonen and her small group still keep in touch with each other.

Ida Nisonen, who has a degree in photography, says that she is ”completely infatuated with performance art”. During her master’s studies, Nisonen became acquainted with feminist philosophy, which has become a permanent partner in her work.

Nisonen’s new exhibition, combining video, photography, and performance, will be seen at the Pesula Gallery in Sipoo from May 8th to 26th, 2024.

The concept of the Peer-led Mentoring Program is based in the activity developed for the members of the Association of Photographic Artist’s. This program originally started in 2020. . The further development of the program at the House of Visual Arts started in collaboration with six member organizations in the autumn of 2022.

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