Mentor to George Retkes
Mark Aeling: I have been making a living making things for over 30 years now. Much of my work revolves around large-scale public art and private commissioned sculpture. I also have a body of work that is more human-scaled sculpture that is driven by my love of making. It revolves around the exploration of materials and how they influence concept and form.
CP: Have you ever mentored another artist before?
MA: Yes. I have been employing young artists for many years and training them in the processes of making sculpture. That would be a form of mentoring. I have also had a number of interns throughout the years and had a program set up with the sculpture department at my alma mater, Washington University in Saint Louis.
CP: What has your relationship with your mentee been like?
MA: I have known George for many years, since he began working for me four or five years ago. This mentorship has given us the opportunity to get to know each other in a different way. We have engaged in a deeper level of conversation about art and business and life goals.
CP: When you meet, what types of things do you work on?
MA: At our first meeting, we set up an outline that covered a variety of topics from a one-year, five-year and 10-year plan. Goals for the body of work for the grant period. Exercises for inspiring the creative process. Looking at art as a business, which involves assessing streams of revenue, understanding third party sales and commissioned work. Contracts, liability and risk. Networking, and lastly work review and studio visit
Every visit has been about 1.5 to 2 hours and we have made sure to touch on all of the topics listed in the outline.
CP: What do you hope is the most important thing he took away from his time working with you?
MA: Identifying goals and setting processes in place to achieve them. Being proactive.
CP: Have you seen any changes to George’s work or his approach to art since you started working with him?
MA: George has been working on a series of pieces that are very exciting to see. To see these pieces evolve from conversation to concept to executed work has been inspiring.
CP: How has this mentorship influenced your own work as an artist?
MA: After our discussions, I have felt invigorated by the depth of our communication and it has inspired me to share more of my creative and professional intent with my team. I think it has made them feel more connected to the process.