A few weeks ago we celebrated the end of the Magic Turtles’ first mentoring programme and announced the start of a second one. The original group was ‘graduating’ and the second was being welcomed into the family and, like in all family gatherings, food and conviviality was at the centre of the evening. Turtles, friends and supporters gathered around the table for an evening of celebration and for an opportunity to explain what has been done and what we intend to do in the future.
Over the two years The Magic Turtles Mentoring Programme has generated a lot of interest and many people have enquired about it. Why the name ‘The Magic Turtles’? What is the programme about exactly? Are there guidelines? Do you follow some sort of a script? Is there a manual?
“You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path.” Joseph Campbell
With this quote I wanted to convey the message of being true to yourself, have faith in your actions and taking on of your responsibilities – in other words to prize your inner as well as your outer independence. That, according to ancient Chinese philosophy, is your Magic Turtle. We all need to find our path, answer the call, sing our own unique song – all diverse expressions of the same concept: don’t give away your Magic Turtle! That’ s why I had chosen this name for Art to Heart’s Mentoring Programme two years ago.
I believe that Art to Heart was ready to expand and reach out. Up to then I had been focused on learning my craft but more and more I’d started looking for others to join with me and I have been open to exploring new ways of working and having greater impact.
These new ways are not always easy to find or develop. In uncertain times we need to learn to surf on the waves of confusion and if the future won’t become more certain we just need to become better surfers. On the good side we need to remind ourselves that uncertainty enables new possibilities and greater potentials!
It is in this light that in order to make the mentoring programme possible we look for partners who are willing to share our journey no matter how small or challenging. Over the past two years we have been involved in art programmes, family parties, art fairs, outdoor projects, primary and secondary schools programmes – some involving only a few participants and some involving hundreds.
Did everything go well? Where all the events successful?
Of course not – if you look at it from a conventional point of view; some worked out as planned, some didn’t but we didn’t get unduly frustrated because to be a Magic Turtle is not about winning or loosing, it is about experiencing and learning from those experiences by participating in them.
The original group has had the opportunity to work with me on a programme of workshops designed to train them in all aspects of the work. Now I believe that, at the end of their mentorship programme, each artist will be able to facilitate workshops or have found a personal and sometime unique way to bring the gift of art making to more children and adults. Now with the new people there are new demands. As mentor I have learnt that no two Turtles are the same (like snowflakes), their needs are diverse, their backgrounds vastly different and so the guidelines need to be specific to each individual. Far from being a challenge, it is this diversity that, I believe, makes the programme interesting and it is exciting to work with each one and find the best possible way to develop their potential.
Is there a methodology, a manual, a script that underlines Art to Heart’s work and mentoring programme? Yes there is but it is not a step-by-step guide; it is more in keeping with the tradition of the Commedia dell’Arte (also known as ‘Italian comedy’, a theatrical presentation performed by professional actors who traveled in troupes throughout Italy in the 16th century). In it the word ‘Arte’ is intended as ‘Craft’ and the actors were indeed highly skilled professionals in the craft of improvisation.
Our Magic Turtles are like actors/performers who follow a loose script but nevertheless a script founded on a great tradition of learning a skill which is based on doing and making, on hands-on experience coupled with reading and watching any relevant material and participating in artistic events that are part of our wider community. Our people in the team know that it’s up to each of them individually to deliver when the time comes but also that their partners are there to step in, should they need it. We are all responsible for acting professionally but we are together in the same vessel. It is not a sink or swim situation, it is about sailing together.
If you’d like to support our programme log on to http://www.arttoheart.ie/the-magic-turtles/