Rolex Arts Weekend spotlights up-and-coming artists

Rolex continues its efforts to facilitate the transmission of knowledge and experience in the arts with this art mentoring programme.
by Jamie Tan

Whitney White (right), a protégée in theatre and her mentor Phyllida Lloyd (left), presents the world premiere of her staged concert, The Case of the Stranger, as part of the Rolex Arts Weekend. (Photo: Rolex)

In September, the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative and Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) jointly hosted the Rolex Arts Weekend. This multidisciplinary showcase took place over two days, and saw four select artists and their works being presented to Brooklyn — as well as the greater New York area.

The Rolex Arts Weekend is the culmination of the 2020 to 2022 cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Like previous editions of the programme, each chosen artist — there were four this time — was paired with a mentor who provided guidance and advice. The Rolex Arts Weekend was thus the platform for the four protégés to present their works after two years of creative exchanges with their respective mentors.

Works Across the Spectrum

Credit: Patrimonio Mestizo, the first US solo show by visual arts protégé Camila Rodríguez Triana, who was mentored by Carrie Mae Weems. (Photo: Rolex)

The works that were shown over the Rolex Arts Weekend were as varied as they were impressive. Director, screenwriter and cinematographer Agustina San Martín, who was mentored by Lin-Manuel Miranda, premiered her film directorial debut Childhood Echoes. Framed primarily as a documentary with elements of holographic projection, the work explores humanity’s experience of music through interviews, images, and an original score.

Meanwhile, filmmaker and visual artist Camila Rodríguez Triana presented Patrimonio Mestizo, which was especially noteworthy for being her first solo exhibition in the United States. Under Carrie Mae Weems’s mentorship, Triana explored her identity as a Mestiza woman from Colombia by reconstructing her ancestral Andean cosmology. Different mediums were used to create the three realms: the Uka Pacha (where ancestors live), the Kay Pacha (the transitory world between birth and death), and the Hanan Pacha (the spiritual world of gods and animated nature).

Theatre practitioner Whitney White, who shares a love of Shakespeare with her mentor Phyllida Lloyd, debuted The Case of the Stranger. The staged concert combines Shakespeare’s words with White’s original text and music to explore themes of immigration, borders and crossings, as well as human connection. The title itself alludes to the subject matter — it was taken from a Shakespearean passage, and is one of the earliest known and most impassioned defences of a compassionate refugee policy.

Finally, filmmaker Kyle Bell, whose mentor is Spike Lee, presented a series of short films reflecting on the Native American community’s experiences. Among them was the premiere of Lakota, a documentary that profiled a young woman grappling with mental health issues in her family.

Another highlight was Spirits, which was supported by the Sundance Institute Indigenous Program. It documented the story of a Mvskoke Creek youth, and the challenges and support he had as he pursued his dream of playing college basketball.

A longstanding partnerships between Rolex and Brooklyn Academy of Music

Credit: Whitney White, protégé in theatre, who was mentored by Phyllida Lloyd, presents the world premiere of her staged concert, The Case of the Stranger. (Photo: Rolex)

In addition to these works, the Rolex Arts Weekend also hosted sessions that saw exchanges between the mentor-protégé pairs, as well as moderated discussions that focused on mentorship within the arts. The event’s successful conclusion did not mark the end of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, of course. The programme has always been part of Rolex’s greater efforts to perpetuate knowledge and experience in the arts, and the mentors and protégés have undoubtedly been enriched by the experience to make even more contributions to their respective fields in the years ahead.

BAM has been a key partner of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative since its inception. It was the late Harvey Lichtenstein, BAM’s Executive Producer and President Emeritus, who helped Rolex to build the programme and recruit its first mentors as an inaugural Advisory Board member in 2001. BAM’s next Executive Producer, Joseph V. Melillo, also played multiple roles in the programme over the years. The partnership has continued this year with the support of current BAM President Gina Duncan and Artistic Director, David Binder.

The 2023 to 2024 cycle of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is already underway, with five acclaimed artists including El Anatsui and Bernardine Evaristo serving as mentors to their chosen protégés.

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