Visiting speakers at peer mentoring meetings

As well as having your set of regular artists who come to peer mentoring meetings you may want to occasionally invite a visiting speaker as a one-off.  This can frequently engage members more than hearing from within the group all the time.

PEER FORUM at the Photographers' Gallery, photo courtesy Rikard Österlund

PEER FORUM at The Photographers’ Gallery – Photo courtesy Rikard Österlund

Visiting speakers might be:

  • Curators, writers or other art world professionals
  • Researchers or specialists from a different field
  • Other artists who aren’t regular group members

Speakers need to be appropriate for the members you have chosen. Are they at a similar career level to the members, and does their work fit with your theme?

You may feel intimidated about approaching speakers you don’t know but remember:

  • There’s power in numbers, a curator might be more inclined to engage with a group of artists whose practices relate to their concerns rather than a single practitioner
  • When inviting speakers to present at a peer mentoring group, you’re expressing an interest in their work, rather than just asking them to take an interest in yours
  • They are more likely to accept the invitation if you can offer a fee for participating, or even just cover their expenses

When identifying and approaching visiting speakers:

  • Use your groups networks to get suggestions of speakers and some kind of introduction before making the invitation
  • Do your research.  Understand what their concerns and interests are and articulate the relationship between it and the practices of the artists within the group
  • Introduce the practices of the group with no more than a line of text and a link to artists websites
  • Once they accept the invitation, brief them on your groups procedures (for example feedback models) so they know what to expect

Think carefully about how many sessions are attended by external speakers and how they are involved. Having an external visitor might make members less comfortable and open with their sharing.

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