We are excited to present a new interview series, PAY IT FORWARD, in partnership with the Lily. The Lily, published by The Washington Post, elevates issues critical to women by fostering important conversations and empowering stories. We spoke with women who we collectively admire to hear what mentorship means to them, the advice that has been most meaningful, and the importance of uplifting the women around you.
Next in our series is Elise R. Peterson: Visual Artist, Writer & Educator. We spoke with Elise about where she has found mentorship and the value of showing up. Our favorite OKREAL quote: “A good mentor is able to see you at times you aren’t able to see yourself.” Check back next week for our next interview in this series or read our previous interview with Jenny Yang.
Do you have a female mentor or leader you respect? Who is she?
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by a community of women who are mentors and leaders. Their guidance has been integral in my sustainability and success in New York. Miya Hirabyashi, Chazz Levi, and Uli Beutter Cohen are just a few of the women that have helped to keep me level.
What qualities make a good mentor or leader?
Mentors that have been most impactful aren’t afraid to share their mistakes or their opinions. Above all, they are able to see you at times you aren’t able to see yourself.
Mentors come in all different forms, and are not always people who we expect. What is your experience with this?
Some of the best mentors have been strangers. The people of New York have dropped so many gems on me in passing. Whether it was the guy drumming and giving a history lesson at the Dekalb station, or a woman who stopped me to have a genuine moment of human interaction. I’ve always felt those are ancestors coming back to guide me, remind me of who I am and what’s important.
What is something a woman mentor or leader did for you, that you now try and do for other women?
Show up. Showing up is the most powerful thing you can do for anyone.
How did that experience (of what your mentor did for you) change your career/life?
Knowing that there are people—even just a person—that truly believes in my talent and vision is what pushes me to strive for more.
What’s one piece of advice that you struggle to put into practice (even though you know you should).
Your freedom above all.
Where and when do you do your best work?
Where it’s quiet and I have sunshine in the morning.
Have you had a recent “Aha!” moment or breakthrough?
Being a full time multidisciplinary artist means I’m constantly working on several projects at a time. Simultaneously, being 7 months pregnant means my body is constantly working even when I am still. Because of this, I’ve realized how invaluable it is to set firm boundaries with my personal and professional time in order to put my needs first.
What is once piece of advice that someone can put into action today?
Your thoughts manifest into reality. Be mindful of the reality you are creating.
What is one thing you want women to keep in mind as they go through life?
You can endlessly create yourself. You can always find a beginning in the middle.
Elise R Peterson
Visual Artist, Writer & Educator
Photo courtesy of Maia Harms