Protégée Agustina San Martín and Mentor Lin-Manuel Miranda
Protégée Agustina San Martín and Mentor Lin-Manuel Miranda

Artistic masters Spike Lee, Phyllida Lloyd, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Carrie Mae Weems will pass on their creative legacy to rising talents in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

Four of the most groundbreaking and influential artists in their respective disciplines – Spike Lee (Film), Phyllida Lloyd (Theatre), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Open Category) and Carrie Mae Weems (Visual Arts) – were named last month in Cape Town as mentors in the 2020−2021 Rolex Arts Initiative. These world-renowned innovators will each spend the next two years in close collaboration with an outstanding young artist with whom they will exchange ideas and ensure that artistry at the highest level is transmitted across generations and geographic boundaries.

American filmmaker Spike Lee has chosen to work with Kyle Bell, 33, United States; British director Phyllida Lloyd with Whitney White, 33, United States; and American artist Carrie Mae Weems with Camila Rodríguez Triana, 35, Colombia. Further to the announcement, American composer, lyricist and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda chose Agustina San Martín, 28, Argentina.

Rolex announced the new mentors and protégés at a public ceremony at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre Centre, marking the culmination of the 2018−2019 cycle of the Arts Initiative that since 2002 has paired 54 of the world’s greatest artists with up-and-coming artists from around the globe.

“We at Rolex have been privileged that, for nearly two decades, dozens of the most genre-defining artists have lent their time and expertise to the Arts Initiative,” said Rebecca Irvin, Programme Director. “The four new mentors who join the initiative’s community of creative greats have broken new ground in their respective fields and we look forward to the impact they will have on their protégés, as they pass on their devotion to their art in this cross-generational exchange.”

The 2018−2019 Arts Initiative series marked a change in the programme structure, with mentorships addressing disciplines in alternating periods. In 2018−2019, the mentorships took place in architecture, dance, literature and music, while in 2020−2021 the programme addresses film, theatre, visual arts and the new variable eighth discipline, the “open category” mentorship.

Introducing the mentors and protégés

The mentors in the 2020−2021 Rolex Arts Initiative are:

Spike Lee

One of the most influential and socially conscious filmmakers of his generation, American Spike Lee has produced a prodigious body of artistically daring work across a range of genres, including more than 35 feature films and documentaries. Among the culturally, historically and aesthetically significant films that he creates, directs and sometimes acts in is the recent award-winning BlackkKlansman (2018). Lee, a tenured Professor and Artistic Director at the New York University (NYU) Graduate Film Program, has been named the President of the Jury at the 73rd Festival de Cannes.

Phyllida Lloyd

Widely recognized for her broad range of bold and innovative theatre, opera, musical and film productions, British director Phyllida Lloyd has spent most of her career promoting gender equality both on and off stage. Among the highlights of her award-winning productions, she directed both the smash-hit musical and film of Mamma Mia!, as well as the Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady (2011).

Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems’s prolific output through image and text, film, video, performance and her many lectures, presentations and interactions with individuals across a multitude of disciplines delves into complex human experiences including sexism, racism and class. Through her career-defining The Kitchen Table Series (1989/1990), she examines various stereotypes of womanhood. Her highly acclaimed works are exhibited at major institutions throughout the world.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Pulitzer Prize, Grammy, Emmy and Tony award-winning composer, lyricist and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda is the creator and original star of Broadway’s Tony-winning Hamilton and In the Heights. A recipient of the 2015 MacArthur Foundation Award and the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors, his TV and film credits include Fosse/ Verdon, His Dark Materials, Saturday Night Live, Moana and Mary Poppins Returns.

The four protégés for 2020−2021 who have been selected are:

Kyle Bell

Over the past five years, Native American filmmaker Kyle Bell has strived to tell the stories of his people, “stories that don’t get told or whose voices are not heard”. His work as director, director of photography and film editor has included the Heartland Emmy-winning documentary show Osiyo: Voices of the Cherokee People, as well as short documentaries such as Dig It If You Can, Defend the Sacred and The Third, which have been screened at film festivals worldwide. He was named a 2019 Sundance Indigenous Program Fellow.

Whitney White

An accomplished director, musician/composer and actress, Whitney White is making her name as one of the most sought after, young theatre-makers in the United States. Artistic Associate at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, she has directed a variety of theatrical genres from the classics such as Othello to What to Send Up When it Goes Down, a play about racialized violence that was hailed by The New York Times.

Camila Rodríguez Triana

Colombian filmmaker and visual artist, Camila Rodríguez Triana creates works with great emotional power that question the viewer and, like her mentor’s themes, portray intimate relationships in everyday spaces. Her art has been exhibited in solo and group shows in South America and Europe. As founder of Heka Films SAS, Triana has been responsible for several acclaimed documentary features that explore the limits between documentary and fiction.

Agustina San Martín

Known for her bold vision as a storyteller, Argentinean director, screenwriter, cinematographer, colourist and film editor Agustina San Martín is looking to her mentor to “nurture and broaden her creative universes”. Having recently completed the feature film To kill the beast (Matar a la bestia, 2020), San Martín has gained recognition for her multifaceted work, including winning a Special Mention Jury Prize for Best Short Film at the 72nd Cannes Festival for Monster God (2019).


Inspired by the ethos of its founder Hans Wilsdorf, over the decades, Rolex has made a unique and lasting contribution to culture by assisting in the transmission of knowledge across generations. This tradition of supporting and perpetuating excellence is exemplified in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Created in 2002, the international philanthropic programme seeks out gifted young artists in a variety of disciplines from around the world and pairs them with artistic masters for a period of mentoring and creative collaboration. In keeping with its tradition of supporting excellence, quality and performance, all values inherent in Rolex, the company gives these emerging talents time to learn, create and grow.

Since its launch, the Arts Initiative has evolved into an enriching dialogue between artists of different generations, cultures and disciplines, helping ensure that the world’s artistic heritage is passed on. From the time of its inception at the beginning of the 20th century, Rolex has encouraged individual excellence and the perpetual pursuit of perfection in all its endeavours, from watchmaking to the many people and activities it supports – including sports, the environment, exploration, and arts and culture.