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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Jack Cantey has received mentorship while working on a TV drama thanks to Artlink's 212 program.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Beth Brockhaus has used the 212 program to help as she produces a documentary on people with hearing aids.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Sketches hang in the 212 space at Artlink Contemporary Gallery.

  • McClure

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Jack Cantey hangs scene cards as he works on developing an hour long TV series while using the 212 space at Artlink Contemporary Gallery on Tuesday February 26, 2019.

  • Hilker

Thursday, March 14, 2019 1:00 am

Artists helping artists

Writers, filmmakers mentored through Artlink initiative

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

Two years ago, Suzanne Rhee thought her art career might be over when she received a graduate school rejection letter. Then, that same day, Artlink announced its 212 project, which pairs local artists with nationally recognized mentors.

She had one more chance in what Rhee calls blessed timing.

“I was so afraid of rejection, but I was kind of at a point where I realized if I didn't take that step and put myself out there, I was just going to flounder,” Rhee says. “The No. 1 point I got from the 212 program was that you have to make the effort, put yourself out there and people will meet you halfway.”

Now 25 years old, Rhee is about 150 pages into writing a graphic novel about her grandfather's life as a German immigrant who returned as an American soldier in World War II. She's concentrating on improving her drawings before completing the book.

Rhee is one of about 20 local artists in such disciplines as animation, film, TV, documentaries, acting and writing who have taken advantage of two sessions.

The 212 project – named for the boiling point of water – was created by Artlink executive director Matt McClure and city native Laura Hilker, who now does animation work in California. A third session has just gotten underway, and applications are being accepted for a fourth to begin in August.

“My motivation was my personal challenge to find relevant work in Fort Wayne that matched my skill sets,” Hilker says. “I had a need that I couldn't fill at home so I headed back to Los Angeles. I met so many wonderful and talented creatives in our community, and a lot of them were struggling to make ends meet. I was motivated to build a community, a viable creative industry in which all of our amazing talent in the region can thrive.”

Three projects from the first six-month session have been completed and some are wrapping up, McClure says. The program is still expanding, finding new mentors across the country who are willing to share their knowledge. Funding comes from grants, individual donors and project-based residuals.

McClure and Hilker also have long-range plans to help the program and the local creative community continue to grow.

“I think about five years from now, and 10 years from now, all the time. But I also think about today and there's one thing that always comes back, and it's a simple thing,” McClure says. “'How is what we're doing today making life better tomorrow?' If we are truly meeting the needs of our creative community here, there's no limit to what we can achieve.

“For much of this, the whole thing came out of trying to shorten that journey the next generation is embracing. Many of us had to figure it out ourselves. Now, instead of going in blind, you have a bit of a map.”

The program is taking baby steps, but its artists are making full strides. Part of the mentoring process includes being honest with the artists, helping them fine-tune their projects and maybe take some of the fear out of the process of building a project. Artistic creativity is often a solitary, sometimes fearful process.

“There's really no good reason to do it except you have to,” says Jack Cantey, who is writing a TV drama. “The struggles, the doubts and the fears are always part of the process. I've learned to accept that it's part of it, but this is what I choose to do, what I have to do, and it's the only way to make sense of my place in the world.”

Cantey talks frequently with Zach Ayers, a writer with credits including BET's “American Soul.” Ayers has helped Cantey slow down his writing process, refining characters and plot structure.

“He's honest with his feedback, but he's always able to back it up,” Cantey says. “He compliments me when he thinks I deserve (it), but he'll also challenge me on the choices I've made.

“Whatever happens or doesn't happen with this idea I have, just working with Zach has already made me a much better writer.”

Beth Brockhaus is producing a documentary, with the help of two mentors, about people who wear hearing aids. She started wearing hearing aids in the seventh grade.

“For me, this program has been not only about the relationships you build, but also about really just knowing that it's easier to go into things when you have someone who has your back,” Brockhaus says. “So much of art is subjective. What you like might not be what I like. You can sit here and think this is a good idea, but to actually pitch it and have people there beside you who really believe it makes it less scary to put it out there.”

She has filmed a sizzle reel to help find financing and is applying for grants before starting primary filming.

“The 212 program has really been able to get me farther along in the project than I dreamed I could be already,” Brockhaus says.

City native Chris Faylor had to chase his love of video game design from Dallas to Austin, Texas, and now to Raleigh, North Carolina. He has worked as a mentor with three artists from the 212 program.

“If I had had those opportunities available to me, I might not have left (Fort Wayne),” he says. “I might have stayed home, and I am trying to inspire the next generation in a way that is a lot less stressful and painful for them and hopefully a lot more rewarding. I'd love to make it so somebody doesn't have to move halfway across the country and leave their family and friends just to follow their dreams.”

The program has already been a success in encouraging artists to continue that chase.

“Without them, I would just be kind of floundering around in the same place I was two years ago,” Rhee says. “I feel more confident in the direction I'm heading. They helped me get my feet under me, and now I'm walking.”