Marialexia Hernandez and Brea Jones dove deep into Miami’s art scene after being chosen as the first two student journalists to kick off the Artburst Arts Journalism Mentorship program.
Artburst, a multi-media platform covering arts, culture, entertainment, dance, music and theatre in Miami-Dade, is giving student journalists the opportunity to connect with the organization’s best writers and publish articles in the digital publication.
The program, which officially launched in June, allows mentees to write and publish two to three articles during a three-month period; participants are paid per article. While originally intended to be carried out in person, the mentorship program is being conducted remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The kick-off meeting was held over Zoom, where Hernandez and Jones got to virtually meet their mentors and discuss program goals, meeting schedules and ideas.
Hernandez and Jones were selected from dozens of interested applicants and described the experience of working with their mentors and covering local art news as “incredible.”
“My mentor and I clicked right from the start,” says Hernandez. “I feel like I can learn so much from her and talk to her about anything. There are so many steps that you learn along the way with the mentorship process that you don’t necessarily learn in class.”
Hernandez has long been a lover of the arts. She is an actress, choreographer and journalist who shares and creates mixed-media content that combines different forms of artistic expression. She graduated this past summer with a bachelor’s in theatre and journalism. While at FIU, she also worked as the videographer for Inspicio, a digital arts publication, sponsored by the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA). According to the Artburst team, Hernandez’s background in broadcast journalism, theatre, dance and writing credentials made her “an ideal candidate for the program.”
Hernandez matched with Michelle F. Soloman, editor of miamiartzine.com, theater critic for Florida Theater on Stage and digital journalist and podcast reporter/producer for Miami’s Local 10 ABC News.
Hernandez and Solomon met virtually once and week to go over potential stories, ideas and goals. Hernandez’s last story centered around how local artists adapted to the pandemic – particularly in immersive theatre. One local performer, June Romero, starred in a worldwide, virtual, theatrical event, Long Distance Affair and in covering the event, Hernandez got the opportunity to interview Romero, and discover how she went about preparing for the role, breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience all through a computer screen.
“It’s been really cool to see where theatre can go and since Artburst is really passionate about covering the local arts scene, it’s an honor and privilege to get to write a piece like this,” Hernandez adds.
Jones is a current senior at FIU majoring in journalism. Like Hernandez, Jones is involved with Inspicio and she also works as a reporter for FIU’s South Florida Media Network (SFMN), executive producer of South Florida Access and as the promotion and recruitment director for PantherNow. The Artburst team says Jone’s experience in writing, photography, videography and more than 45 published articles made her well prepared for the mentoring program.
Jones first discovered her love for the arts in elementary school. She had her work exhibited as early as third grade and served as the director for her high school’s various theater productions.
“I’m really invested in the arts, and I think I would definitely pursue arts journalism as a career,” says Jones. “I’ve been painting since I was a little girl and first discovered what paint was. This experience has been a great way to connect with different art spaces in Miami and get my foot in the door.”
Jones was paired up with Rebekah Lanae Lengel, a journalist and playwright. She’s been published in three languages and has also appeared in publications including the Miami Herald, Miami New Times, Artburst and onstage at the Hippodrome Theater.
Jones says the two work really well together and Lengel played a huge role in helping her refine her journalism and interviewing skills.
For her first Artburst article, Jones covered how different Miami art spaces, like The Wolfsonian-FIU, have been able to cope and operate under coronavirus restrictions. In writing her article, she was able to connect with The Wolfsonian museum curator, the digital curator and the museum’s head of marketing and public relations, which helped her land her next new adventure – interning with The Wolfsonian.
While both Hernandez and Jones felt that completing the mentorship program virtually was a bit bittersweet, they still believe the program was a success and really helped them grow.
“I definitely think if anyone gets the chance to have a mentor, regardless of what profession they want to go into, that they should take it,” adds Hernandez. “If you’re confused about something or have a question about the industry, you can go to your mentor and that’s your leg up in the industry, especially when you’re first starting out.”
For more information on the Artburst Arts Journalism Mentorship program, visit https://www.artburstmiami.com/.