Meant to be Mentors

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Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Scott Walker, Executive Director of the Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

Mentor Claudia Moore
Mentor Claudia Moore

“It’s really important for senior artists to feel they still belong because they have so much to give at this point in their life”

Those words by Soulpepper Theatre Artistic Director, Albert Schultz sum up the reason behind the creation of the Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network and its Mentorship Program.

CSARN was founded as a result of a three-year national research project on the state of senior professional artists in Canada. It discovered senior artists share many of the same concerns as other seniors, including: finances, health, housing, and isolation.  But what makes artists different from their peers is the fact that they don’t want to stop creating just because they reach so-called “retirement age.”  Sometimes they continue working into their later years because they have to.  Canada’s arts and culture sector is a $53 billion industry, ten times the size of the sports sector, but the average income of a professional artist is two-thirds that of the general population. That makes it difficult to save for retirement.

However, financial necessity isn’t what drives most artists to keep working. What keeps them going is the same drive to create that inspired them to become artists in the first place. It doesn’t grow faint with age; it’s part of their DNA.

But many senior artists find it harder to work as they age.  Compromised health often makes it more difficult, and for performing artists, there are fewer roles. Staying active frequently means accepting work out of town, and that becomes challenging because of health or family issues.

Mentor Linda Goranson in Doubt
Mentor Linda Goranson in Doubt

Ten Thousand Hours

That’s how long an artist must practice in order to become a virtuoso. It works out to almost 14 months non-stop. But what happens to all of that accumulated talent when work opportunities are no longer there?

The answer: mentorship. For the past two years, under a pilot project in Ontario, CSARN has provided senior artists with a chance to mentor their colleagues. Directed by Joysanne Sidimus and Deborah Windsor, the program has resulted in more than 40 mentorships in all artistic disciplines.

I’ve gone from a scatterbrained approach … to a laser focus on what I need to do to get to where I want to go,” says actor and writer Kyle MacDonald. “I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity, and I’m certain it will shape my future life.”

Kyle’s mentor is retired TV producer Dale Barnes.

“To be able to talk to a young student like Kyle, and see him progress, and to be able to utilize the knowledge you have, instead of letting it go forever, I really thank CSARN from the bottom of my heart,” he says. “The more they can do of this, the better it’s going to be for everyone in the industry.”

Mentors are paid a fee. Mentees are reimbursed for their expenses.

CSARN plans to expand the Mentorship Program beyond Ontario by 2017.

Along with the Mentorship Program, CSARN helps senior artists in other ways: through the Seniors’ Care Advisory Program, offering advice and counsel on how to access the healthcare system; and seminars and webinars on a variety of topics of concern to senior artists.

To learn more about the Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network, please visit their charity profile page >> 

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