Teen Arts Mentorship

The Teen Arts Mentorship Program is a 25-year-old program that was initiated with a 3-year grant through the James Irvine Foundation. This arts enrichment program has offered promising teenage artists the unique opportunity to work closely with professional master artists in a studio environment. Working in small groups, students spend 10-12 weeks producing a portfolio of work to be exhibited and sold in The Arts Fund Community Gallery or performed in a public venue.

Beyond acquiring specific art-making skills and exhibition or performance experience, students are introduced to the aesthetic styles and career choices of artists in their communities. The master artists become role models and references for students as they consider advanced studies in the arts. Open to all high school students in south Santa Barbara County, admission to this program is highly competitive. An average of 85% of mentorship graduates go on to pursue advanced studies in the arts. In recent years the number of mentorship students served has nearly doubled.

Success. Having produced Teen Arts Mentorships for twenty consecutive years, our organization has an undisputed track record of success in this unique, high-impact, programming area. Teachers, students, parents and program alumnae all confirm that the mentorships deliver results:

  • High-quality instruction that produces advanced skill development that would be impossible to achieve in regular high school art classes
  • Extensive contact with professional artists who become role-models, friends, employers, and references for college and job applications
  • Exposure to university art departments and private studios
  • Resume-building public exhibition and performance opportunities
  • Introduction to producing art for revenue through The Arts Fund Community Gallery

Over 800 area high school students have benefited from this tuition-free program that addresses ongoing deficiencies in arts education by employing professional artists to provide concentrated study and resume-building exhibition and performance opportunities in venues outside traditional classrooms. The Teen Arts Mentorships serves Santa Barbara County teens ages 13-19 from public and private schools. The Arts Fund has outreached and successfully created, funded and administered mentorships to students from Santa Barbara High School, San Marcos High School, Dos Pueblos High School, Carpinteria High School, Bishop Diego, La Colina, Providence Hall, Laguna Blanca, CATE, homeschool students, and most recently added students from the Santa Maria area, which includes- Orcutt Academy High School, Righetti High School, Saint Joseph High School, and Santa Maria High School.

What others are saying...

"The Mentorship Program is a win-win situation, the kind we need more in the arts."  --Josef Woodard, SB News Press Arts Scene

Julie was so helpful and informative. Kate had an amazing time. These classes are so inspiring for the developing artist. There is hardly anything of this caliber accessible to young artists. The students that take part in these classes are really there to grow as artists. It's so encouraging to see my daughter grow and learn from artists who are incredible talented and are successful in their field. -Amy, Parent of 2017 Student

Thank you so very much for putting together classes like these. When you have a creative child it can be very difficult to find quality classes that provide opportunities for growth. 


“From studio setting to public display, the Mentorship Program offers young artists in Santa Barbara County extraordinary access to the artistic experience." --CASA Magazine

“I went through my mentorship with Julie B. Montgomery in the spring of 2015. It was my first experience getting to use an artist's studio for my work, and it was my first opportunity to scale up the size of my work. Through the mentorship I gained access to tools that I still use today: from the toolbox everyone received with drawing tools, the portfolio case we filled at the end, to artistic decisions I make today in my own artwork. (The toolbox I use every week for my drawing class, the portfolio to present my artwork.)

I also have the pleasure to continue working with Julie B. Montgomery as her intern one year later as I attend my first year at Santa Barbara City College as an art major. Every Friday I'm working with Julie and helping her keep up the studio and am learning more about the financials of being an artist among other things. I have been all too grateful to be able to consult Julie as an artist who's opinion I trust, and I cherish the friendship I have made with her; a big thanks to the Arts Fund, and please continue to support beginning artists!”  Hannah, 2015

"Great news - Sam has been accepted to CCA San Francisco for the 5 year architectural degree! He was awarded a creative arts scholarship and will be attending this fall. He was also accepted to Otis College of Art and Design with a scholarship, Savannah College or Art and Design, Arts Center Pasadena and Emily Carr Art School. Quite a few of the paintings and woodcuts that he submitted in his portfolio came from the body of work he created in the Teen Arts Mentorship Program." -- Kerrie and Sam, 2015

“Our son signed up for a bronze casting class and has been inspired by the arts ever since. Because of having participated in several arts mentorships, our son was able to submit an application for an arts scholarship and was awarded $2500 towards his college education in an arts-related major. Wow! There is no way that would have been possible without the outreach and guidance from Marcello. Our son also now has a portfolio of work he can use to submit when applying for colleges! Not to mention a huge boost of confidence and self-esteem to go with it!! His experiences with the mentorship program opened his eyes to various arts-related degrees and gave him a vision that was beyond the traditional engineering and science degrees so emphasized at his high school. Not everyone is created to be an engineer, nor are all students even allowed to take the engineering classes! Fortunately, he now has a vision for his future and sees that he could pursue a creative hands-on career in architecture, industrial design, or even jewelry making.  This mentorship opportunity is one-of-a-kind and an experience he could not and did not have available to him at his high school.”  Sarah and Ed, 2015

“This experience was instrumental in exposing me to media outside of my primary focus at the time, nurturing a skill set I could then employ as a Studio Arts major at the University of California Los Angeles. The Teen Arts Mentorship was also invaluable, though, because it allowed me to establish connections with instructors whom I consider mentors to this day.” Crysanthe, 2013

“I won two scholarships from the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara. I am currently working on my non-profit organization, and I have been able to use some of the skills I was taught in the program to teach the residents of the retirement home that I am working with. My work has been in a few shows, like the Wilding Show, Channel Keepers, and one that was in Art from Scrap. So thank you for letting me be a part of the mentorship program!” Aiyana, 2016

“I did creative writing with Charles Donelan and it was a wonderful experience. I made friends that I still have today, and we continue to share our writing with each other. Donelan's class inspired me to write every day and after submitting a few of my pieces to the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, I got an honorable mention for my writing portfolio. The Mentorship is a wonderful experience for creative students looking to expand their horizons and connect with mentors.” Luisa, 2016

 “In the bronze casting class, I enjoy that I get to create what my brain and my heart feel like doing and express my feelings toward life and Mother Nature.  I also enjoy being around positive people, people who say, “I almost tripped but I will NOT give up.” I learned to be respectful and never judge art because it is an expression of what the artist thinks and feels. Art is a way for me to express myself and be happy. I learned that I need to not be shy to express what I really feel and to not be discouraged by other people’s judgments.  Thank you for showing me that there are opportunities available to me if I believe in myself and takes steps toward making it happen.” Alexis, 2014

"Hi, I am Tessa Denison's father. Tessa has been doing the photography mentorship with Joyce, and you were kind enough to find a way to fit her into this session. I wanted to tell you that this was a transformative experience for her. Tessa is younger that most in her group, and I greatly appreciate that she was able to get such a jump start on developing her artistic talent and expression, instead of having to wait until high school. She essentially got what is the equivalent of an entire trimester course during this spring, and she is really inspired to continue. She also loved the other girls in the class, and Joyce was incredibly supportive and instructive. I can't believe their finished products -- truly amazing!

Thank you again for making this possible for Tessa. It has been one of the best experiences of her life, and I am so excited to see her so inspired." -- Paul, Parent of Photography Student, Spring 2015

"Being able to communicate with a professional artist was an experience I never thought I would be able to have in high school, and The Arts Fund made it possible. This priceless program is a gem, and something l will always count as a major stepping stone in my creative career." --Mary, 2013

"This class really helped Hallie express herself and realize that she is capable of so much more than what she believed she could do. We saw it in the final performance." --Amy, parent of Theatre student

"I was part of the painting mentorship with Rafael during the spring. The mentorship experience helped clarify the importance of art in my life and was the motivation I needed to develop as an artist. I am now on the board of Youth Making Change, a teen-led grant making program through the Fund for Santa Barbara. The Arts Fund mentorship allowed me to further explore my passion for art and painting. I would like a grant to go to The Arts Fund, in hopes that more teens can have access to these opportunities." --Sophie, 2012


"Being able to communicate with a professional artist was an experience I never thought I would be able to have in high school, and The Arts Fund made it possible. This priceless program is a gem, and something l will always count as a major stepping stone in my creative career."       --Mary Frances Knapp, mentorship participant and Dos Pueblos High School Junior