Up-and-coming producers, actors and musicians will be paired with world-renowned artists and producers as part of Arts Centre Melbourne’s four new mentorship programs.  Covering classical music to theatre to producing, the mentorships will see Arts Centre Melbourne open its doors to young and emerging arts practitioners and offer access to its staff, resources and networks.

Perhaps most exciting is the Producers Mentorship with Melbourne Fringe.  The soon-to-be-announced successful applicants will be paired with a producer from Arts Centre Melbourne’s pool of experienced producers, who oversee Arts Centre Melbourne’s annual calendar of 4300+ events.  They will work with  producers one-on-one to help deliver their show during the festival working on goals, milestones, budgeting – all the essentials a producer needs to know!

Arts Centre Melbourne Artistic Development Program Manager, Simon Abrahams explains the genesis and benefits of the program as well as how it will work:

"Arts Centre Melbourne has a long-standing association with Melbourne Fringe.  For many years, we supported the Outside Eye program – a brilliant initiative that invited in leading artists to offer feedback on a Fringe Festival work during its development for presentation."

"In 2013 we decided it was time for a re-boot, and that we wanted to address a major issue facing our sector: the growing lack of highly skilled producers available to work with artists on new works.  We felt a mentorship program between emerging producers and some of Arts Centre Melbourne’s experienced in-house producers could make a real, long term difference to the sector. "

"As part of this mentorship we are pairing four emerging producers with four established producers and they will develop a one-on-one skills development program in the lead up to the presentation of a show in the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival."

"Melbourne Fringe is such an important institution and a key part of our artistic landscape. So many of us started our careers there, and there is a clear demand from producers who are doing interesting work for Melbourne Fringe Festival but would like further professional development.  We’ve had a long standing relationship with Melbourne Fringe and we’re keen to see it continue.  Similarly, we also have partnerships with Next Wave, Theatre Network Victoria and other key industry bodies."

The MTC launched their Neon Festival this year  wherein five of Melbourne’s top independent companies were invited to stage their work, their way.  Abrahams acknowledges the brilliance of Neon but is quick to point out the differences between the two programs. "MTC’s fantastic Neon Festival supports new works by independent artists and offers emerging artists the opportunity to present their work at MTC.  Our partnership with Melbourne Fringe is a mentorship program which focuses on professional development and supports emerging producers to develop their own skills set by utilising the skills of the Arts Centre Melbourne staff.  The outcome here isn’t necessarily a performance."

"We do have a series of other mentorship programs which offer performance outcomes, for example our artist in residence with Nicola Gunn and her company Sans Hotel, who will present their show In Spite of Myself later this year, and our emerging composers mentorship called 5x5x5 that will result in the compositions being exhibited at Arts Centre Melbourne during our Winter season."

From an outsider's perspective the logistics of this program seem monumental but, says Abrahams, the program had been relatively simple to set-up. "A meeting of the minds to ascertain what would be the best path forward.  I have known the team at Melbourne Fringe for a while and together we had a strong sense of what might be possible.  The staff at Arts Centre Melbourne were keen to be involved, too, and to help give back to the sector."

Abrahams comes to the Arts Centre with an amazing pedigree. He is a performing arts producer, programmer and performer. He has made substantial contributions towards the success of Polyglot and Gasworks and is currently Chair of Theatre Network Victoria. He acknowledges that running small organisations like Polyglot and Gasworks means that you have to be responsible for everything – strategic planning, producing new work, HR, marketing and publicity, fundraising, sponsorship, fixing the internet when it’s broken – you name it!  "While the situation is different here at Arts Centre Melbourne, I have a pretty good understanding of the different departments and their needs, such as marketing or fundraising or social media" he says.

"The scale and impact is different here, but ultimately many people working in these big organisations have worked in small organisations – and vice versa – and will again.  I definitely don’t see it as a one-way street."

The new Arts Industry Card – http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/artists – is the way to keep up to date with all the mentorships, workshops, forums, discussions and discounted tickets. Says Abrahams: "There are some great offers there at the moment so industry professionals should definitely sign up – we have lots of plans I can’t wait to share with you!"