As Day 2 of the JUMP Mentoring Intensive begins all the mentees sit cross-legged on the floor of the Merlyn Theatre of Malthouse in Melbourne. Emily Sexton, Artistic Director of Next Wave explains that all conversation shuts down as soon as people retreat into the dark of the tiered theatre seating. She wants all the participants to feel equally engaged and involved. As Daniel Santangeli runs the mentees through the ins and outs of their JUMP year, they sit up attentively and listen. Dancers subtly stretch. Writers sit with their ankles neatly together, notebooks to hand.
Next Wave partners with the Australia Council to deliver the JUMP mentorship program offered by the Early Career Artists and Producers program, and hosts and facilitates a three day induction program for recipients and their mentors. The induction is a chance to relay important information about the requirements and responsibilities of the grant, but also to foster a sense of community among the mentees with a program of workshops, roundtables and talks. The theme of today’s sessions is collaboration, and how to make the most out of relationships with mentors and creative partners. Many of the current crop of JUMP mentees are groups and collaborations, and all of them will work closely with their mentors over the next 12 months.
First up is a getting-to-know –you exercise facilitated by Kate Sulan, theatre-maker and founding director of Rawcus Ensemble. Kate has the mentees imagine the centre of the room as a map of Australia, and arrange themselves in the space according to where their work is primarily based. Then, she asks the mentees to imagine the whole room as a globe – where in the world do they want to their work to be seen? Immediately the artists scatter throughout the room, negotiating where South America is in relation to Asia, and whether Los Angeles should stand on the right or left of New York, depending on which way they’re facing. We end up with two Europes on opposite sides of the theatre. Kate then brings everybody back to the centre, and asks them to consider: who is your audience? Is your work risky? What does success look like for you? The session culminates with Kate asking the mentees why they make art. They answer, to create community, to tell my stories, to make new experiences for audiences. To propose revolution!
The next session is a keynote lecture by visual artists Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples, whose collaborative practice examines the very nature of what it means to communicate with a partner. Their long running Telepathy Project documents the two artists’ attempts to communicate telepathically with each other, and explores intimacy, trust and dreams. They emphasise the importance of communication to the JUMP cohort, and offer their tips to develop strong collaborative relationships: to make time to get to know each other, to commit to the project, and, somewhat paradoxically, don’t assume your partner can read your mind – always be open and honest. Rosie Dennis, artistic director of Urban Theatre Projects, re-emphasises the importance of clear and open communication in the talk that follows, which covers how emerging artists can approach more established artists and producers for advice and support. Just ask, is her simple advice, but also know what you’re really asking for, and to have respect for the other priorities and pressures being experienced by that person.
The afternoon sessions saw the cohort break up into groups for discussions facilitated by artists and producers, including Darren Sylvester leading a conversation on working across different mediums, while Liang Luscombe discussed the pitfalls of working with friends and peers, and Lucy Guerin talked about international tours and working with overseas partners. The group then broke up for the afternoon to go on an ‘art scavenger hunt’ around the venues of Melbourne, to see work and remind themselves of the experience of being an audience. Everyone bands together in groups, and after applying a healthy amount of sunscreen, venture out from the dark of the theatre into the bright hot sunlight of the afternoon.