Mentorship in the Art World: The Best Advice

January 31, 2024
Owner Abigail Ogilvy and Director Kaylee Hennessey
Owner Abigail Ogilvy and Director Kaylee Hennessey


The fine art world is an institution built on connection and collaboration. At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, we believe that the most successful participants approach this industry with a "pay it forward" mindset, understanding that knowledge is wealth in the arts, and connections are crucial. We are fortunate to work with a network of incredible individuals in all corners of the art world - advisors, curators, artists, collectors, writers, and many more. These collaborators are what keep the art world moving and shaking -- and even inspired the foundation of our newly opened Los Angeles program. 


We asked a variety of members from our network to reflect on a mentor they found important in their field, and the advice that still resonates with them. 



"My current and previous museum directors, Andria Derstine and John Ravenal, respectively, are generous mentors with big hearts. Accompanying them on meetings, studio visits, and donor trips, I learned the art of saying as little as possible. Do your homework, ask the right questions, let others talk, and just listen. While not universally applicable, I’ve deployed this strategy to great avail, sometimes saying almost not a single word and being told I was 'brilliant!'"


Matt Gaulin


"Mentorship is an important way to both give back, but also, grow professionally or personally. Some of the best relationships I’ve been fortunate to benefit from had a mentorship aspect to it. The very best were mutual. We can all grow and learn from those around us, of any age, background or experience. I would urge you to cultivate and grow relationships with a variety of individuals that you respect. From there, soak in and learn from them. Sharing about your growth or struggles also allow you to gain additional perspectives. My advice: be vulnerable, be accessible and look for people that inspire you and are inspired by you. Perhaps the best advice, mentorship is all around, take advantage when the opportunity arises; it does not need to be formal to be impactful."



Amy Myers in her studio. Photo courtesy of Janet Loren Hill.


Janet Loren Hill
Artist and Educator


"I first met Amy Myers at The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts during an Open Studios event. I remember being mesmerized by her massive paintings which seemed to absorb and radiate energies in the same instant. They were subatomic, bodily and cosmic; they were every scale all at once. That day, we started a conversation that developed into a working relationship and now a friendship. I cherish our honest discussions about the dynamics of the art world and how Amy has seen them change over the years. Her philosophical musings on making a life alongside art, cautionary tales, and immense experience navigating this industry as a fellow feminist will always ground me when I feel most unmoored. Her advice feels tethered to a deeper root system stemming from her own mentors' mentors and for that I hope to continue to be a branch reaching out to extend the knowledge forward."


Jameson Johnson
Editor in Chief, Boston Art Review


"When I first had the idea for Boston Art Review I was twenty-years-old and had no idea how to make a magazine let alone run a nonprofit arts organization. Mentorship—but even more specifically a network of mentors—was crucial to almost every step of the development of my career and my organization. But creating that network of trusted confidants doesn't happen overnight. It can be difficult to know who you need to learn from (you don't know what you don't know), let alone to find that person, make a connection with them, and maintain a relationship. Sometimes the connection happens naturally, but often, it requires seeking out someone whose work you admire and asking them if they would be willing to share some time and expertise with you. It requires humility, graciousness, and knowing when to tap into that person's knowledge. There's no dating app for finding the perfect mentor, but a great place to start is just by getting out there, going to events, introducing yourself to people, and remaining curious. But the advice that has truly stuck with me came from Gloria Sutton who was a professor of mine in college and now serves on my board. She impressed upon me the importance of knowledge sharing and always being conscious of how much you're taking and how much you're giving, how much you're uploading versus how much you're downloading. And in that same spirit, becoming a mentor has been a really important part of my work. I'm so grateful for the folks that poured into me, I want to be able to now pour into others."


Cicely Carew and Mallory Ruymann. Image courtesy of Mallory Ruymann.


Mallory Ruymann
Curator, Advisor, Educator;
Managing Partner at art_works


"Artists are my greatest mentors. Every exhibition, program, commission, or project I work on with an artist, I always seem to learn something new about my work or myself that I carry forward. One of the greatest artist/mentors is Cicely Carew. Since 2019, she has pushed me in new directions personally and professionally, offering us opportunities to work on together that I would have never dreamed of. She inspires me to think big, move with confidence, and try new things!"



Owner Abigail Ogilvy with her mom, Joan Holden.


Abigail Ogilvy Ryan
Gallerist and Educator
Owner and Founder, Abigail Ogilvy Gallery (Boston/LA)

"For me, mentorship was first a part of my life through someone who led by example, my mom. I often think people overlook this important form of mentorship, because those who are paving the way for others and showing them how things are done simply by their actions and efforts are the most important and enriching people in our lives. My mom worked a demanding job, walked quickly, attended dozens of events in a week after hours, but took time out of her day to speak with the many people who reported to her and looked up to her. It's important to not be "too busy" - if you get to this point it might be time to restructure your schedule. My mentor in the arts is Meredyth Moses, you can read a wonderful interview I did with her many years ago. One highlight from that chat especially stands out: "My favorite part of collecting has always been personal education and a deep appreciation for the privilege of being challenged daily by the art in my nest.  All of the art becomes my friends and enriches daily visual life." - Meredyth Moses

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Abigail Ogilvy

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