Artburst Arts Journalism Mentoring Project Kicks Off
Pictured here, Brea Jones
Artburst is impacting the future of arts journalism. The Artburst Arts Journalism Mentoring Project was conceived as an opportunity to connect some of the programs superstar writers with top students. Laura Bruney, CEO of the Arts & Business Council, is excited about the potential of the program. “The Artburst Mentoring Project is a program dedicated to fostering the next generation of arts journalists. The mentors, writers from our Artburst cohort, are matched with a student journalist for one semester. Student stories will be posted in our blog salon. It’s a wonderful opportunity for up-and-coming journalists to work with a professional that can advise them not only on how to improve their writing and process but on their career path” she said. Several Artburst writers expressed interest in serving as mentors.
The pilot program kicked off in July with two outstanding student journalists. Applicants were invited from some of the top local journalism schools. The Artburst team selected two candidates from a group of dynamic and inspiring students.
The Artburst director hosted a zoom meeting to introduce the mentors and mentees. It was originally scheduled as a fun networking opportunity with café con leche at their Calle Ocho office but with pandemic restrictions in place they went virtual. At the kick-off meeting they discussed program goals, meeting schedules and ideas. Each of the mentees will write 2 or 3 articles for Artburst with input and review by their mentor.
Artburst writer and arts professional, Rebekah Lanae Lengel was matched with Brea Jones. An accomplished journalist and playwright, Lanae Lengel has been published in three languages and has appeared in publications including The Miami Herald, The Miami New Times, ArtBurst Miami, and onstage at the Hippodrome Theater. She is also an accomplished arts professional working with some of Miami’s top nonprofits.
Brea Jones is a senior at Florida International University with experience in writing, videography and photography. Jones currently works as Executive Producer for the South Florida Media Network show on South Florida Access. She also works as Promotion and Recruitment Director for FIU Student Media. Her love of the arts started in elementary school when she took art classes and had her work exhibited as early as third grade. In high school, she was house director for her school’s theater productions.
She’s well prepared for the mentoring program, having worked with several publications and published over 30 articles. She was also selected to participate in Inspicio, an arts publication platform sponsored by FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + the Arts. Through Inspicio, she produced four video stories for the platform featuring arts leaders including Iké Udé, Michael Spring, Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson and Gregory Reed. While editing the interviews/videos on the arts leaders “I listened to their experiences and what they were working on at the moment.”
Ray Elman, founding managing editor of Inspicio, introduced Jones to the Artburst mentoring program and encouraged her to apply. “He is great about connecting students interested in arts journalism with opportunities and other outlets,” Jones said. “I was so grateful to be selected for Artburst. Due to the pandemic I lost two internship opportunities so I was thrilled when I got the notice about the mentorship. I’m busy again. It’s truly a blessing.” she said. Lanae Lengel knows the importance of mentoring saying, “throughout my career, I have had mentors guiding and supporting me and my work; I wouldn’t be where I am today without that network to lean on.”
At their first meeting, Jones and Lanae Lengel quickly began brainstorming ideas on future articles for Artburst Miami. “I want to learn more about Miami arts, becoming a better arts journalist and in the process, make more connections.”
“I think one of the most critical aspects of mentorship is the back and forth of different ideas between people,” said Lanae Lengel. “I’m just as excited to receive new ideas and insights as I am to share my hard-fought lessons and experiences.”
In addition to writing for Artburst, Michelle F. Solomon is the editor of miamiartzine.com, theater critic for Florida Theater On Stage, and digital journalist and podcast reporter/producer for Miami’s Local 10 ABC News. Michelle has a master’s of arts degree from SUNY Empire State College with an emphasis on arts writing. She is a member of the American Theater Critics Association and the Florida Film Critics Circle. She was matched with Marialexia Hernandez, an actress and choreographer who shares and creates mixed media content, that records different forms of artistic expression in South Florida. She is very passionate about the arts and the diverse voices in our community. She graduated from Florida International University with Bachelor Degrees in Communications – Broadcast Television and Theatre Arts.
Marialexia’s work as videographer for Inspicio led her to apply for the Artburst Mentoring Project. Her communications professor, Ray Elman, nominated her for the program. Her background in broadcast journalism, theatre and dance plus her writing credits made her an ideal candidate for the program.
“I was so grateful to get nominated and then chosen. I felt like I was at the right place and right time. I definitely was meant to be here and it feels very special. I’m excited to be a part of a team who seeks to cover the arts while allowing their writers a platform with an accessible path for growth,” said Hernandez. “I also hope my experience will help contribute to covering our vibrant cultural community.”
Born in Miami, Hernandez was raised in the Dominican Republic, training in dance since she was three years old, but returned to Miami for high school. Upon her return to Miami, she began to “trickle into theater and dance” she said. FIU professor Michael Yawney helped her explore new opportunities. The theater bug stuck halfway through college and she switched her major to theater. “I really like the storytelling aspect of theater and the arts. I’ve seen the potential and it’s helped me discover parts of myself and helped me heal,” she said.
Michelle and Marialexia had an immediate connection and are meeting virtually weekly. “Michelle was immediately accessible to me, she was very open, and it felt great,” she said. “We immediately spoke about what was going to be happening during the program. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this relationship takes us and how we can use all that we’re passionate about. I know I am going to learn a lot from her.”
Solomon is energized to be involved with the program saying, “while the advent of the internet has created a space for everyone to be a critic, the mentorship program will teach the next generation of arts journalists the importance of knowledge and context” she said. Michelle has a deep appreciation of her personal mentoring experience. “Having a mentor when I first started my journalism career was one of the greatest impacts in shaping not only my writing, but how I approach interviews, stories and reviews,” said Solomon, “In fact, I still keep in touch with my mentor and tell her how grateful I am that she was able to share her experience and knowledge with me. It was an unforgettable start to a great journey.”
Marialexia Hernandez and Brea Jones are two up and comers to watch. The fulfilling and impactful experience with the Artburst Arts Journalism Mentoring Program will help jump start their careers and help them focus on their future dreams and paths.