by Ali Walker
Mentor Program Assistant, Funhouse Commons
An arts-focused mentor program was launched through a collaboration between San Juan County Arts Council and Funhouse Commons in November 2018.
“This idea was so in line with our program goals, and such a great way to reach teens and adults who wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to our regular mentor program — we jumped on the opportunity to make it a reality,” said Trillium Swanson, coordinator of the Funhouse Mentor Program.
Last spring, the arts council reached out to the Funhouse with a vision: to create and support mentoring relationships between established artists and young people interested in the arts across San Juan County.
“It is so exciting to see the years of development and extended vision behind the San Juan Summer Arts Festival come to fruition. The festival was created as a fundraiser for the SJCAC in order to facilitate the development and growth of the Youth Mentorship Art Program in San Juan County,” said SJCAC President Claire Wright. “We are so thrilled to form a partnership with Funhouse Commons and look forward to watching this program continue to grow and develop. The SJCAC is working with the family resource center on San Juan Island as well as the Alchemy Arts Center to get a similar program off the ground on San Juan in 2019. Facilitating connection to the arts and culture in our community is truly part of our mission.”
Four artists – Brook Meinhardt, Andrew Youngren, Kevin Cron and Thomas Leonard – have been paired with four teens for this flagship program. All artists and teens come to the program with different ranges of skills and artistic abilities in a joint venture to create and learn from one another. This program was started in the hopes that artistic leaders within our community could pass on their knowledge to our youth, while in turn following the youth’s lead on their project of choice.
“Knowing the power of arts and craft, it makes me happy to share my shop space and what I have learned with an interested young person,” says Leonard. “Knowing and having experienced what a one-on-one teaching experience can bring, I am honored to pass that on too. I feel practical experience with the arts and humanities is essential for the development of healthy young people and the continuing development of our larger community as a whole.”
Meinhardt believes that our current social environment focuses heavily on doing well in sports, and doesn’t give students a chance to really explore their creativity.
“I know for me,” said Meinhardt, “I feel the necessity to establish environments where high school kids can be creative, whether it’s at my after-school art club or it’s mentoring a student in art.”
This new joint venture with SJCAC and the Funhouse Mentor Program is just that sort of environment, a relationship in which youth can explore their own artistic abilities while being supported by an established artist, something most youths don’t have the opportunity to experience.
The matches will meet about once a week until April, when they will have an art show for the community at Clever Cow Creamery. The gallery opening will be on April 13, and the art will be up for a month, until May 12. After that, the youth will be able to sell the work they created with their mentors at the San Juan Summer Arts Festival, located at Brickworks Plaza in Friday Harbor, every Friday night in August.
For more information, to make a donation or to get involved with the San Juan County Arts Council, check out www.SanJuanCountyArts.org or contact Wright at SanJuanCountyArts@gmail.com or (505)702-6796.
For more information about the Funhouse Mentor Program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Swanson at 360-376-7177.