CSMN Mentee Spotlight: Anna Frlan & Kathy Bergquist, Studio Space Ottawa

The Creative Spaces Mentoring Network provides you with the unique opportunity of one-to-one mentoring with an experienced professional in the arts. In the following post-program interview, hear how 2020-21 mentees Anna Frlan, Secretary and Board Member, & Kathy Bergquist, Co-Founder and President of the Board, of Studio Space Ottawa learned from the program in many different ways.

Studio Space Ottawa is a young arts services not-for-profit, the main purpose of which is to provide stable, affordable, open, and healthy and safe workspaces for visual artists. We’ve had a great start, and wanted to work with a mentor to help us think about ways to expand while ensuring our sustainability. We have been lucky enough to work with Tam-Ca Vo-Van from SAW Gallery and Project Space. She has led her organization through a transformation of their physical space and an expansion of their programs, and we admire the way she has worked at all levels to keep partners and the public fully engaged. SAW has a broader mandate than SSO, but there is enough overlap between the two organizations that Tam-Ca’s insights and experience have been very valuable. For example, SAW had a major capital fundraising campaign to expand their existing space and make it more functional; at SSO, we are in the midst of a capital fundraising campaign, and Tam-Ca has been able to offer us concrete advice complete with examples of what did and did not work for SAW, and because we are operating in the same city, and we are targeting a similar population, this experience-based advice is extremely useful. While SAW was able to access large grants, they relied heavily on grassroots-level fundraising, and that strategy enabled the public to feel deeply engaged with the project. This is something SSO is now looking to do.

We agreed from the outset to hold virtual once-a-month meetings; this way, we could check-in and just talk about whatever was going on in our organizations, or if we had a specific issue we were hoping to discuss, we could do that. This was so helpful during the pandemic, when just being in touch with another arts organization gave us a sense of community, and we could share experiences of how things were going, and offer each other encouragement. Everyone had to come up with ideas about how to weather this storm, and having someone to look to for guidance has been great.

Through the CSMN mentorship program and our work with Tam-Ca, we have greatly expanded our knowledge of different approaches to creating spaces for artists; probably one of the most important things we’ve learned is that there are so many different ways to go about it, and no matter what your specific situation is, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned from those who have gone through the process before you. Tam-Ca’s generosity in sharing her experience makes us feel more confident about asking for advice and really excited about sharing and collaborating with others to ensure we all contribute to building a more vibrant arts landscape. We would highly recommend the CSMN program to any organization that is just finding its feet or that feels it needs to shift gears, because its important to know that the arts community is generous, there are people out there with experiences to share which will benefit your organization, you don’t have to forge ahead alone! Be open, listen, and ask lots of questions, and you’ll find the CSMN program most valuable.

Anna Frlan, Secretary and Board Member of Studio Space Ottawa, and Kathy Bergquist, Co-Founder and President of the Board of Studio Space Ottawa