Mentoring of Artists: New Focus for the Retreat

I was walking towards the gym at Duke in early December. Night had fallen over the campus. It was cold enough to merit a light jacket and, not unusually, I was talking out loud to myself. When I do, I sometimes get stuck on the same phrase. I'll repeat it out loud over and over. This time it was a question: What is it that I've heard artists say the most to me? In the twelve years that I pastored, officially and unofficially, at Hope Chapel, there was one thing I'd heard artists say repeatedly.

They wanted to be mentored.

It didn't matter whether they were 22 and recently graduated from art school or 62 and professionals. They all wanted a mentor. Some wanted an art mentor. Others wanted a spiritual mentor. Still others, masters at their craft, even after longs years of practice knew they had something to learn from their cousins in their craft. Maybe it was a new calligraphic hand. Maybe it was theater actors wanting to learn how to act for film. Painters wanted to learn how to make prints, while poets sought help writing novels and classically trained ballet dancers requested assistance making the transition into modern.

Deep down in our souls we long for a mentor. We yearn for someone who has traveled further down the path that we seek out. Against common perceptions, we are never too old to want or need a mentor.

As I remained outside the gym, pacing back and forth on top of a half wall, I talked to Steven, the Laity Lodge director, on the phone. I told him I wanted to change the focus of our retreat for ministers to artists. I told him I wanted us to swap stories and models for mentoring.

Some of us would be able to share successful stories of being mentored. Others could share dismal stories or stories of holding on to the ache of wanting a mentor but never finding one. Whatever our context, church or school or professional society or coffee shop, all of us are in relationship with people. All of us have something to share.

Steven agreed to the new focus. That night I wrote Luci Shaw and asked if she'd be game. She said yes. I asked her if she would share her artist's biography. So many of us become intimated when we see an artist as a "final product." We think, "I could never become like them." But everybody has a beginning. Everybody has a village of helpers and a series of circumstances, some planned, many unforeseen, that shape us into the person we are today. Rarely, however, do we get to see an artist's winding thrills of unexpected victory and sudden loss, or the slow, bitter slog through day after day of doing the same thing, maybe 10,000 times, in order to get it right, maybe to fail, maybe to learn from our failures, maybe to resent our failures and to see nothing good from them.

I told Luci I'd love for her to share how she started out as a child. Who helped her along as a teenager or a young adult? Who mentored her? Whom has she mentored and what has it looked like? How has God mentored her?

So that's what we're now going to do on March 4-7 out at the Laity Lodge. We're going to explore models and stories of mentoring. We'd love for you to join us. It'll be a great opportunity to learn from each other. Luci and I will each give brief talks, but mostly we want to give space for everyone to share as much as possible. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. And as always, please do pass this along to someone you think might profit from coming.

Oh--and I have a few new features on my blog. It was time to get a slight makeover.


I like the new profile pic - you look like a rabbi - and, by gum, I suppose that's what you are!
The pic is from a few years back, and my friend caught me in mid-action scratching my lip. The pose was not intentional. But it turned out ok. I also thought it was time to amend my profile page. I'd put as occupation "military" just for the heck of it. But now I think it was just silly and I should put thing properly.
I like the new your site's new duds...spiffy!
Thank you for this update on the retreat. I've been telling everyone I'm going even though I haven't registered -- or gotten all the cash together yet. I think that's called faith...
I meant also to say that the change in focus for the retreat sounds spot-on. God bless you and your collaborators for being open to the Spirit's direction.
Thank you, Tamara. We'd love to have you, but that goes without saying. Once you go to the Laity Lodge you understand: you want to go back.
Anonymous said…
Nice additions to the blog, David. I just referred another random person to your site, and I think the links and articles help give people an idea of who you are and where you're coming from. I always enjoy hearing your perspective.
Katy: thank you. That's encouraging. (Just to make sure: Katy Monwai?)
Anonymous said…
Yes, and you're welcome. :)
kingfisherblue said…
Mr David, jo of jo&derek fame here. Have been seriously considering journeying from downunder to the retreat, but to be honest, was keener on the topic of the spiritual and artistic formation of artists. How often are these retreats held, and how do we find out about them apart from on your blog? Laity Lodge's web site doesn't have much more info? Am I missing something? Cheers.
Jo, you'd be surprised how often I think of you guys. Living in Durham means we have access to the Duke Gardens. The Gardens include an "Asian" section, and the first time Phaedra and I walked through it I mentioned to her your interests in Japanese gardens. And Derek, well, every time I see a serious runner, inevitably Derek pops up in my imagination.

As far as the retreat, it goes without saying that I'd be thrilled if you came this year. While the central theme is "mentoring," the idea of spiritual formation remains fundamental to the purpose of these retreats. It's my life's interest and I'll always look for ways to connect with others of similar kin.

Cherith Nordling is coming, as are Charlie Peacock and his wife Andi. If you count Steven, myself, Luci and one other gal (Shannon Newby), that makes a small coterie of Regent College-ites. Oh--and Brian Williams might be coming too. So all the merrier.

As long as the Laity Lodge retains interest in the topic, we'll keep having this retreat annually. At the moment I remain the chief cheerleader behind them, so you'll likely find the most information about them on my blog. The LL will post the basic information about the retreat on its scheduling page. So you're not missing anything.

I'd love for you to come, Jo. I'd be astonished if you did, considering the distance of travel. But if you're not able to make this round, there will be another next spring.

If you wish, you can write me at david DOT taylor AT hopemail DOT org.

Please give my warmest to Derek.
Rosie Perera said…
I'm planning to go, too, David. I registered on the Laity Lodge website and got a reply from someone there, but it doesn't take payment online, so I'm sending the check by mail. Looking forward to seeing Jo there -- I think she's going to go for it!
Hey, that's doubly fantastic. And now officially I am very, *very* excited about this retreat. What a FUN group of people will be landing in the same room. Yay!

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