CSMN Mentee Spotlight: Hartmut Steinke, Heart Comonos

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 mentee Hartmut Steinke, Executive Director of Heart Comonos learned from the program in many different ways.

heart comonos logo

1. What motivated you to sign up for the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network?
I first heard about the Creative Spaces Mentoring Network from my friend, Andreja Kovac, who is the Director of Crane Creations Theatre Company. Our project, Heart Comonos, is integrating the arts together with a number of sectors and partners including youth programming, therapeutics, spirituality, social innovation and community development with a neighbouring focus. Ultimately, we see the development of a community cultural hub in Cooksville-Mississauga. Heart Comonos comes from the Latin ‘together as one’. We are creating safe and inclusive spaces for people to connect, learn and collaborate for personal and community wellness. This is especially vital given the added stresses of the present COVID challenges. Andreja felt that this ArtsBuild mentoring would be a great experience for us to move our idea forward to reality and she was so right!

2. Who was your mentor? Were they a part of the same industry/arts discipline as you? If not, were you still able to learn things applicable to your situation from your mentor?
Olinda Casimiro, who is the Executive Director of the Art Gallery of Northumberland in Cobourg, is very knowledgeable and experienced in the sphere of the arts. She also brings a strong background in business and economics as well as understanding the kind of networking that is needed across sectors for a successful project. She has shared many insights and made many recommendations along the way which have been strategic in guiding our project forward.

3. How did your one-to-one meetings take place? What kind of structure did your meetings have?
Olinda and I meet via Zoom on average once or twice each month. Generally, I send Olinda a bit of a summary of what we are focusing on, and we then have conversations which include her helpful insights and experience. Our meetings are informal and very enjoyable, and it really feels like we are friends!

4. How did the knowledge gained from having a mentor, or how did your mentor directly, help you solve a challenge or issue you were having with your creative space project? Briefly explain the issue or challenge and how your mentor was a part of solving it.
A couple of situations quickly come to mind. Early on, we thought we were ready to do a feasibility study and Olinda recommended a possible resource. It turned out that the person she recommended asked us some very strategic questions which actually correctly turned our attention to a different planning focus for our project. This has significantly changed the approach we are taking with our partners and with our engagement with the community.
Olinda has also kept a laser focus on the kinds of municipal and other stakeholder voices and representation that we need to have around the leadership table. Ultimately, we need the participation of citizens, organizations, and institutions each functioning in their most appropriate roles.

5. Over the last year, how much has your knowledge of creative space projects changed and how much of that would you attribute to the mentoring network? Do you have more confidence moving forward in your project?
Without a doubt, this is a valuable learning experience. Collaboration across many sectors is the best path for creating a relevant and sustainable project.

6. Would you recommend this program to someone who was in your position a year ago? If so, why would you?
Absolutely I would recommend this program! Olinda ‘feels’ our project and at the same time brings a level of experience and objectivity that is so helpful.

7. If someone wanted to make the best use of the Creative Space Mentoring Network, what would you recommend to them?
I would suggest keeping your mentor well informed about your thinking, questions, plans, activities, progress, and challenges. It is a gift to have someone coming alongside to offer their wisdom and perspectives.

Hartmut Steinke, Executive Director of Heart Comonos

Interested in applying to our Creative Spaces Mentoring Network 2021-22 iteration? Learn more about the program here!