Artists Helping Artists: Nocturne's Artist Support Network

Signy Holm
Posted on January 29th, 2024
by Signy Holm

In 2022, Nocturne’s co-curators, Stephanie Yee and Lux Gow-Habrich introduced a pilot project to provide consultations, mentorships, and support to emerging and early-career artists participating in Nocturne’s annual contemporary art festival. The one-on-one mentorship, titled the “Artist Support Network” connects emerging artists with Nocturne alumni and public art and production professionals.

Within this project, Nocturne aims to address a need that has been identified by previous Nocturne artists: emerging and early-career artists require more professional development opportunities in the context of contemporary art events. Nocturne aims to reduce the potential barriers to artist participation, one of which is career level and experience; artists who participate in Nocturne are not expected to be professionally trained. For this reason, it is crucial that Nocturne develops a care-based, artist-led infrastructure to support artists who may be creating large-scale temporary public art for the first time.

Nocturne artist Jessie Fraser and Artist Mentor David Dahms install Jessie's work 'Till the Tide,' October 14, 2023, for Nocturne 2023. Photo by Only Issue. [Image Description: Jessie is pictured in the foreground, a white woman with red hair and bangs. She is seated, threading a needle, looking down at a large textile spread on the ground at the Queen's Marque on the Halifax waterfront. David Dahms, a man with a short beard, glasses, and a black baseball cap, kneels and looks into the distance. He is holding a pair of pliers. Behind David, a man in a yellow long-sleeve shirt and green toque is bent down attaching something to the textile]

Artist Jessie Fraser (pictured above) received mentorship from David Dahms, an artist, Nocturne veteran, and the Gallery Technician at the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery. Fraser joined the ASN hoping to find guidance installing textile work in an outdoor, public setting. Fraser said of the experience:

"The installation of the work outside and in the water went very smoothly thanks to all the guidance and hands on help from my mentor. I really appreciate that pairing and support from Nocturne for that. I learned so much from David!" - Jessie Fraser, 2023 Nocturne Artist, 'Till the Tide'

The goal of the Artist Support Network is to, first and foremost, support participating emerging artists through direct and tangible benefits. Some examples of areas where artists have identified needing support include:

  • Budgeting and administrative management
  • Engaging with media and promoting their work
  • Documentation (video and photo)
  • Technical assistance
  • Exploring fabrication
  • New approaches to public engagement
  • Working with new materials
  • Contextualizing their work.

The opportunity for hands-on support, skill-building, and/or professional guidance will help early career and emerging artists build their capacity and professionalism in undertaking creating public artwork or socially engaged art projects.

“I loved the Artist Support Network, things like that are so beneficial…All the other support was amazing for the festival, I received the most care at Nocturne than from any other festival I've worked with” - Roda Medhat, 2023 Nocturne Artist, 'KILLIM'
KILLIM, by Roda Medhat, October 14, 2023. Photo by Mayur Kakreli [Image Description: A large inflatable representation of a nomadic Kurdish tent adorned with intricate textiles in geometric pattern sits on the Halifax harbour boardwalk.In front of of the inflatable is a row of colourful adrondak chairs, and in the background city skyscrapers lit up]

For their Nocturne 2023 project, 'Cadence: a cordel literature treasure hunt', Beacon artists Logan Robins and Lucas Hernandes Nascimento worked with mentor and Nocturne alum Christian McGinty to find ways to make their project more accessible in for digital users.

Working with Lucas and Logan was an absolute pleasure. It was exciting to learn about their practices, while aiding them in realizing their project for Nocturne. As much as I tried to help them learn and grow, I personally learned a lot through both discussions with them, as well as research into the various aspects of their project, such as methods of printing zines and prints. Overall, it was a hugely positive experience that I would recommend others to participate in, given the opportunity! - Christian McGinty, 2023 Artist Mentor
Cadence, 2023, Logan Robins & Lucas Hernandes Nascimento. Photo by Nadim Kesserwani
'Cadence: a cordel literature treasure hunt', Lucas Hernandes Nascimento & Logan Robins, October 14, 2023, for Nocturne 2023. Photo by Nadim Kesserwani. [Image description: In the centre of the photo is a wooden shed-like structure with a large opening and several strings of brightly coloured booklets hanging on clothespins attached to the front of the shed. There is a grey picnic table and another shed to the left, and some of the Halifax Harbour can be seen in between the sheds. A person with long brown hair stands inside the shed writing on a piece of colourful paper while a mother and child stand outside looking in. A person in a brown coat and white pants stands on the right looking towards the shed.]

Successful participants of the Artist Support Network develop transferable skills and acquire sector-based knowledge that will serve them for the rest of their careers. In the short term, the participating artists will have a more supportive experience participating in Nocturne and their projects will have benefitted from the input and support of professionals. In the long term, the artists will benefit from cultivating a network of professionals within the arts community and they will be more prepared for submitting work to other art-after-dark and contemporary art festivals.

Mentees demonstrated growth and the development of new or honed skills within their finalized Nocturne project. These artists have expressed how the Artist Support Network impacted their process, final project, and overall growth.

Stay tuned for updates on future iterations of the Artists Support Network by subscribing to our monthly newsletter here!