What does it mean to look up to someone? To respect, learn and grown? A mentorship is a relationship-based partnership. When someone with a particular skill-set or knowledge can help guide another individual to possess the same abilities, a unique relationship is established. At The Arts of Life, an alternative day program for people with and without disabilities, artist-mentors play a big part in the community.
“I have learned about the constants in artistic expression – the things that all of us share and hold true in life.”
The Arts of Life is one of only two professional arts organizations for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of over six hundred arts organizations in Chicago. Comprised of two professional arts studios in Cook County, The Arts of Life supports sixty artists to explore a variety of mediums. The Arts of Life is committed to integrating artists with disabilities into Chicago’s vibrant arts community as valuable members and contributors through the growth of professional exhibitions, collaborations, and artistic opportunities. A successful fine-arts practice requires building and evolving from self-generated ideas. The Arts of Life Mentorship Program pairs a number of professional Chicago-based artists with The Arts of Life studio artists in individual partnerships aimed toward creating a unique collaborative experience.
For many of the artists, joining The Arts of Life is the first time in their lives that they are valued as a self-directed member of a community. The Arts of Life studio environment is designed to promote equal ownership for each member to explore their creative potential. As the studio’s Art Coordinator, I developed “The Arts of Life Mentorship Program” which recognizes this special opportunity for equal growth and learning on both sides of the partnership. While most typical mentor/mentee relationships rely on one individual being less knowledgeable and less experienced than the other individual who guides and teaches, The Arts of Life Mentorship Program relationships are mutually beneficial with both artists learning from each other. Together they work to foster social, professional and technical development, and form relationships that would extend beyond the studio.
With a minimum commitment of six months, The Art of Life studio artist and artist/Mentor agree to work together at least twice a month creating artwork as they build a relationship and plan a joint exhibition together. This new expanding initiative is proving vital in the development of the artists’ growth; their unique work and eventual exhibition experience help to push their professional careers forward. Mike Paro, an up-and-coming Chicago-based artist, points out how his partnership with The Arts of Life studio artist Tim Stone helped him push his own work forward. Their geometrically abstract styles complement each others abilities and expression. “Through The Arts of Life,” adds Paro, “I have learned about the constants in artistic expression – the things that all of us share and hold true in life.”
Chicago-based painter Paul Kenneth who has been working with Arts of Life artist Guy Connors since this initiative started states, "My experience thus far mentoring Guy Connors at The Arts of Life has been very fulfilling. Through our collaborations and bi-weekly visits, Guy and myself have developed a friendship founded on the art-making process. Guy and The Arts of Life community have taught me the importance of artistic collaboration which has helped further develop my own practice.” These collaborations that are being formed through art are becoming much more then a studio pastime as the connections are being felt beyond the surface of the canvas. Arts of Life artist Tim Stone realizes this special connections mentioning, "My favorite thing about working with Mike is he's really nice, energetic and open-minded. Mike is very fun and has good ideas. I really like him as a friend."
Vincent Uribe is an artist and creative entrepreneur who joined The Arts of Life staff in November of 2013 as the Arts Coordinator for their Chicago Studio. Vincent is also the Founding Director of LVL3 gallery in Wicker Park, an artist run space dedicated to supporting collaborative work and group shows of all mediums to foster connections between emerging and established artists from around the world. Vincent has a breadth of experience working within the arts as a team leader and initiator. He has organized hundreds of artists and dozens of noteworthy exhibitions. Along with art, Vincent enjoys traveling, dancing, pizza, the Internet, and dogs. Vincent holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.