Arts Business Mentor Program

Above: Landscape painter B. Emerson Kitsman, Sandpainter Joe Ben, Jr., Painter Tony Abeyta
Below: Painter and wood carver Kevin Horace Quannie;
Silversmith Gerald Lomaventema;
Filmmaker Ramona Emerson;
Weaver Sally Black, mentors


The N.A.T.I.V.E. Project Arts Business Mentor Program will provide the artist or artisan who is at the beginning of his or her career with a mentor whose mentorship will be paid for by the program. Mentorships may be individual or to a group or class. Mentors will be paid $25 per mentee hour for limited amount of  hours per year, which is extendable upon justification.

An artist wishing to become part of this arts business mentor program must recruit their own talented emerging artist mentees, who must be program-approved. Once recruited, both mentorsgerald and mentees will benefit from marketplace exposure through the N.A.T.I.V.E. Project website, the artist showcase websites, and other media outlets. Mentee progress will be tracked and impacts will be measured.

Mentorships may be conducted individually or in group sessions, but even in groups, the mentor must give individualized attention to each arts business mentee with the purpose to push the mentee into the marketplace and increase the mentee’s earnings. To achieve this goal, the mentorship may include a combination of cultural tribal arts/arts & crafts skills, development of meramonantee portfolios and development of mentee arts business knowledge.

If you would like to be a mentor, please call N.A.T.I.V.E. Project staff  Michael Billie, or phone: (505) 326-4245.

Mentee Requirements

Mentees must:

  1. be serious about art/arts & crafts as a business career;
  2. have begun making and selling art/arts & crafts;
  3. participate in N.A.T.I.V.E. program business development workshops as determined necessary by the mentor in collaboration with the program; these will equip the mentee with a business plan, an artist statement, a clear idea of business formation and provide program assistance in forming and organizing his/her business;
  4. participate in the mentorship according to the mentor plan that will be designed jointly by the mentor and mentee with program assistance;
  5. provide a photo, bio, and high quality photos of their present work for upload to the N.A.T.I.V.E. Project website. A N.A.T.I.V.E. Project photographer is available to take high resolution pictures if needed;
  6. allow the program to track and record their progress;
  7. provide a statement of how much they made prior to the mentorship, and after successful completion.sblack

Mentor Requirements

The mentor is a successful artist or artisan and will have these responsibilities:

  1. invest time, knowledge and expertise in the mentee;
  2. jointly with the mentee and with program assistance, design a mentor plan;
  3. guide the mentee in completing a marketplace-ready portfolio;
  4. share his/her arts skills and business to an extent that the mentee will increase value in the marketplace;
  5. provide a cultural anchor, which is fundamental to development of an artist/artisan’s identity;
  6. provide guidance in navigating the marketplace;
  7. upon completion, debuts the mentee in a high-access marketplace venue such as an arts festival, gallery or show either individually or as a group.

Please email Michael Billie, to request an application to be mailed out by post office (include your address) or by email.


It is our hope that the program-supported mentorship will benefit mentor and mentee in the following ways.

Safe Relationship. Mentoring provides a safe relationship for both the mentor and mentee to address successes and setbacks, discuss goals, and develop together.

Solo or Group Show. The mentor is expected to instruct and guide the mentee to create the mentee’s own work, with the end product being enough art/arts and crafts to be presented at a solo or group show or festival with marketplace exposure. We will assist the mentor and mentee in planning this marketplace show.

Exploration and Experimentation. As the mentee learns skills and finds his or her own voice in design, pattern and theme, the mentor is a guide. The relationship can be a journey of exploration in which small concrete actions support larger dreams. By example, the mentor not only assists in the creation of work. Through the relationship, the artists learn to talk about what they are doing, the mentor gets out there and teaches about what they are doing, ultimately to associate the project with something powerful, a feeling, and living and historical Native American culture.

Body of Work. It is important for artists and artisans to develop a “body of work.” The body of work should have consistency in some aspect that is unique, even in some slight way, to the artist or artisan. Art is not only about making a living for artists and artisans; it can be about the making of purpose that is based on balance, beauty and a personal imperative. This pure and unique aspect can be guided for both mentor and metee toward a solid body of work for both. New artists and artisans will need to look for their voice that will allow people who will invest in the artist and in his or her future to recognize the work as theirs. This may be just a slight noticeable difference that has meaning and purpose enough to set one’s art and craft apart, something that connects with someone’s heart. Sometimes, it may be a larger difference. The mentoring relationship allows for risking exposure in this way.

Culture and Language. Culture and language underpin the mentor-mentee relationship, providing cultural role models, which is fundamental to development of an artist/artisan’s identity.

Mutual Belief. A good artist mentor shares his or her skills and experience but also believes that each artist or artisan knows what they need for themselves. The mentor believes that the artist or artisan will find what he or she already has and will express it.

Honesty. While the artist mentor meets the mentee at his or her comfort level, and supports the mentee in goals, of particular interest to the artist mentor is strengthening and defining that purity that is at the foundation of every artist or artisan. When the artist or artisan can access that purity of voice, and produce a body of solid work, they are ready for the marketplace.

Practicality and Dispelling Fear. Running a business, even an arts business, requires a degree of formality in record keeping, and a plan for growth. New artists and artisans often fear this growth and do not properly prepare themselves for it. Meanwhile, the mentor might have spent decades developing his or her arts skills without concrete marketplace success. The mentor and mentee will be given the benefit of program small business development support in this area.

The Artist Statement. The importance of the artist’s statement cannot be emphasized enough. While pictures of solid work may cause a buyer to pause, it is the story of the work and the artist that makes the buyer return again and again. The mentor and mentee may help each other prepare this statement.

Local Community and the Global Internet. The mentor can teach the mentee to look towards the world locally, to think in small niches, and not worry about global trends. Through life experience, the older artist or artisan will know that the more specific one gets, the more universal you become. The world of the mentee may seem very large, a global audience, but the tools you use to sell to a few people are exactly the same as you would use to sell to the global market. The mentor can teach the mentee to focus on the local community and, in that way, perfect the art or craft.

Mutual Growth. Both the mentor and mentee grow in this supportive relationship, which includes discussion of goals and expectations with an openness to reassess so that each individual develops their own unique creative path. The mentor may have traditional cultural knowledge to share, and the mentee may connect the mentor to new energy. Life experience teaches you what works and what doesn’t. Success isn’t the benchmark necessarily.

Kick in the Pants. When a mentor is able to engage a beginner to help you figure out what we can do with our art in the world, it can be like the kick in the pants the artist needs. For example, the mentor can help change the mentee’s attitude towards exposure and help dispel fears of growth.


Below: Eugene B. Joe at a workshop-roundtable
discussing identity, faith, and above all skill as part of a circle of artist-mentors