Emerging Artist Mentorship

Highly Talented, Well Trained and Ready to go Pro!

Art Without Limits pairs its emerging artists with a professional mentor for up to 1 year of guidance and are given mentorships at no charge. However, each is asked to contribute time and energy to AWoL, their respective mentors and future artists. Learn more about how you can give back in the spirit of “Giving Begets Giving”!

Want better insight on our Emerging Artist Mentorship Program? Check out some of our emerging artists who have come out of the program and gained guidance and expertise to pursue their career in the arts. Also, be sure to learn more about the wonderful mentors that helped make it happen!

We are now accepting applications for mentorships in all art disciplines for ages 16 and up (the sky is the limit) so, if you are interested, make sure to contact Art Without Limits Mentorship Director, Julie McLeod, at talent@awolsb.org.

Currently only accepting applications from Santa Barbara Tri-counties or artists willing to come to Santa Barbara for their Mentorship.

We are currently seeking Mentorship Applicants!

Elite’s Perspective: A Mentorships Lasting Impact

AWoL Emerging Artist Daniel Newman-Lessler. Mentored by Maestro Nir Kabaretti

AWoL Emerging Artist Daniel Newman-Lessler. Mentored by Maestro Nir Kabaretti

Elite Henenson

Elite Henenson

Elite Henenson & Macduff Everton

Elite Henenson & Macduff Everton

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Cuba, 2014

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Cuba, 2014

Photograph taken by Elite Henson,  Tulum

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Tulum

Photograph taken by Elite Henson,  Blood Moon

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Blood Moon

Photograph taken by Elite Henson,  Window to Sea

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Window to Sea

Photograph taken by Elite Henson,  Yosemite Waterfall

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Yosemite Waterfall

Photograph taken by Elite Henson,  Bolivian Kids

Photograph taken by Elite Henson, Bolivian Kids

Everyone benefits from having a mentor at some point in their life.  More than a year ago my mother, Julie, became my mentor (again!) as I took over as Art Without Limits’ new executive director.  I don’t know where I would be without her wise advice, gentle pushes and occasional shoves. What I’ve learned from Julie and the many mentorships AWoL has nurtured is that every mentorship is a unique journey. The kind of guidance offered is often more personal and practical than academic. Mentorships can happen over a short time period or over many years, but the true value of a mentor relationship continues to resonate long after the learning ends.  

Last April, teens from all over Santa Barbara convened at the Garden Street Academy to meet successful arts professionals who shared stories and offered career advice at our 9th annual Art Career Day Conference.  One of our speakers, Elite Henenson, a former AWoL mentee, had to cancel, but I was fortunate to catch up with her in Tempe, Arizona where she established a successful photography business after graduating from Arizona State University.  With more than eight years perspective, I wanted to know Elite’s opinions on the biggest takeaways from her AWoL mentorship with Macduff Everton, an award-winning photographer, author, and photojournalist for National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, Outside, Smithsonian, and Town & Country.  

Does the careful matchmaking and support we foster in our arts community make a difference?  You be the judge after reading Elite’s story...     


Elite’s Story

When she first learned about AWoL’s new mentorship program, Elite already knew she loved photography. She was taking photography classes at Santa Barbara City College while working at Lifetouch Studio as a portrait photographer and doing photojournalism for Channels (SBCC’s newspaper) and Noozhawk.

In seeking out AWoL’s services, she remembers, “I knew I wanted to work with a full-time successful photographer who makes a living from their photography business--I guess I needed a proof that it is possible to make it as a professional photographer without starving.” After an in-take interview and looking at her portfolio, AWoL Founder, Julie drew on its vast network of artists to identify a mentor who could help Elite move to the next level and guide her on how to run an independent photography business. Santa Barbara’s internationally recognized documentary photographer, writer and editor Macduff Everton was a perfect match.

“At that point, Elite notes, I took okay photos, but I knew that I must work on my technique and improve it through practice. More specifically, I had to learn how to see the light better--how to work with it, manipulate it and capture it to achieve what I am looking for. I also wasn't thinking conceptually at all, and I was lacking the ability to create a cohesive body of work or a series of photographs that worked together to tell a larger story. I feel like I just had a random collection of few beautiful images with no higher purpose.”  In setting goals for her upcoming work with Macduff, she recalled…

One of the things I really wanted to get out of the mentorship was to figure out how to find my voice and style. I knew it was an evolving process and it would probably take years, but I needed a direction of where to start.” 

To this day, Elite describers her year-long mentorship with Macduff as ‘amazing.’ She learned something new every time they met. They went on shoots together and covered the fundamentals of operating a photography business. “... Sessions with Macduff helped shorten the process of my learning remarkably. He gave me very direct and reliable answers to any questions I asked.”

“Before working with Macduff I just had random images that even if they were beautiful, didn’t really relate to each other. With Macduff’s help, my first cohesive body of work was created  and I did my first exhibition, which was a very big deal to me.”

After her mentorship, Elite was accepted to Arizona State University (ASU) and moved to Tempe, AZ. She completed her BFA in photography with an honor exhibit titled Native American Culture in the 21st Century accompanied by an essay called Parallel Experiences that examined similarities between her own Israeli culture and that of Native Americans.  She went on to travel internationally and establish her own photography business. She and Macduff have stayed in touch.  

At the end of our interview, I asked her what she would say to an aspiring artist interested in an AWoL mentorship? She told me, “The opportunity to work hands on and one-on-one with an established artist doesn’t come often. I can say about myself, that even though I did a BFA in photography and I had truly amazing teachers during the years, working with Macduff was one of the more significant learning experiences l have ever had.”

 “One of the things that I like the most about the AWOL mentorship is that it is really open and it lets you, the aspiring artist, take it to the levels you want… It’s all focused on you and your development as a creative, so you can experiment in the areas you truly desire, and really start to understand yourself as an artist. Without noticing you start developing your own style, path, and plans for the future, which all help to get you closer to your dreams”. 

Measuring the success of mentorships is an imperfect science.  The lessons learned don’t fall into neat data sets, because each mentorship experience is unique.  We can track numbers served, but the true impact of AWoL’s work unfolds over time, often with profound impacts on both the mentor and mentee. 

I have heard many stories like Elite’s since joining Art Without Limits.  If you’ve received this letter, you know our work supporting emerging artists, providing business skills workshops to the broader community and helping others fundraise for their creative projects through fiscal sponsorships.

Do you believe in the power of mentorships? Please help AWoL help artists with a donation today and your gift will be matched!  Most of our programs are free or by donation, but there are real costs we have to pay to provide matching artists and mentors, hosting career conferences, workshops and exhibits, and processing gifts for other organizations raising funds for their work. Thanks to a generous donor, gifts during AWoL’s 10th anniversary year will be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000. 

Thank you for your commitment to helping artists flourish in our community. Let's make this fundraiser our best ever so we can continue our work providing artists of any discipline the guidance they need to thrive!


Jodi McLeod

Executive Director

Header Image: AWoL Emerging Artist Jackson Gillies performing with AWoL Mentor Randy Tico