Mentoring in the Arts: Anne d’Harnoncourt’s example

The autumn season this year has proven bountiful for AxD, culminating last week in our receiving our first state-level design award and sixth award overall. The 2008 awards program for the Pennsylvania American Institute of Architects gave recognition, not only to exemplary projects, but exceptional individuals as well. Anne d’Harnoncourt, the late director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was posthumously given the award for Contribution to the Profession by a Non-Architect. She was clearly a beloved and dedicated leader in the field of art. Among the many exemplary qualities for which she was cited, three stood out to me: Passion, Intellect, and Mentoring of others to seek their personal best. Certainly anyone engaged in a form of art, be it painting or architecture, expects and indeed needs to bring passion and intelligence to their craft if it is to be vital, to themselves and their audience. In a culture that so readily embraces the exaltation of the individual as hero, or genius, leadership through mentoring and collaboration is frequently overlooked.


While it may have been completely serendipitous that in the same awards program where Anne d’Harnoncourt’s leadership in the arts was recognized, our art gallery & studio received a citation of design merit, I believe there was a shared thread. In conferring the design award for the art gallery & studio, the jury noted the role that mentoring played in the project. They wrote that they were “…impressed with the hands-on nature of the project, using it as part of the educational process; it made the end product better”. While our entire staff served as their own client, user and contractor for this particular project, I believe that the process of architecture is intrinsically a social art. As architects we must strive to exert leadership, not so much through individual authorship but rather in fostering an environment of shared mentoring, growth and ownership.

[18 Nov ’08 PA AIA awards program – Ed Barnhart, AIA]

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