Founded in 2013, the Teens Art Council is a group of local teen leaders who collaborate with the university’s Arts + Public Life initiative to develop creative skills, leadership experience, and opportunities for their peers to engage with the arts. The council members work with university staff and local partners to develop projects at the intersection of arts administration and community engagement. In Summer 2016, the Teen Arts Council was offered as a paid internship opportunity to 11 local teens, in partnership with After School Matters!
For two of six weeks of this summer’s Teen Arts Council internship, these teens participated in a two-week “residency” at the Smart Museum of Art! Below are some of their reflections on the experience.
“Always appreciate the behind-the-scenes activities, people, and structures that help with making an successful event.” -Lavonn A.
“Being at the Smart Museum really made me feel welcomed and like I belonged and it inspired me to come back in the future.” -Alisha W.
“I really appreciated how the Smart Museum certified my idea of giving the Teen Arts Council the title of Dopecent ® on our docent badges.” - Kamiah M.
Our first week at the Smart Museum we had a lot of prerequisite activities to help grow our critical thinking skills, foster our teamwork abilities, and present our knowledge and collaborative skills to Smart staff. We met with artist Faheem Majeed, who introduced a structure-building activity that helped us foster our communication and teambuilding skills. With that and our knowledge from our own research, we started to plan an event to make other teens feel like they, too, belong in a museum space. We started by breaking the Council into smaller groups and planning a multi-faceted event to help fulfill our “residency” at the Smart. After creating and presenting our proposal to Smart Museum staff (who said “yes”!), we began planning our event for a group of 34 teens, which would happen the following week.
During our second week, through event management and diligent planning, we created an event, titled You Belong Here. In creating our event we focused on two things: our audience, the students of Design Apprenticeship Program and Community Actors Program (other APL teen programs supported by After School Matters), and the theme of the Smart Museum, which was “Belonging.” We came up with three workshops that teens cycled through within our event. These were entitled “Love Yourself,” which was a writing and reflection activity to enhance your self-understanding; “You Matter,” a student-led conversation and art exhibit centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, which included discussions about works of art made by individuals on the Teen Arts Council; and a hands-on activity called “Think Outside the Box,” an architecture and teambuilding activity that involved building with straws, inspired by the activity we did with Faheem. After the structured activity, the teens had open time to explore the museum’s collection with the help of TAC “Dopecents” (Kamiah’s invention) and Alisha’s scavenger hunt. We were excited when lots of the other teens chose to participate. After a pizza lunch in the lobby, we led a debrief conversation with all of the attending students and thanked them for participating.
We mostly think that our event and our time at the museum was a success. We worked together as a team, learned about new careers like docent and event manager, and the Smart Museum staff was impressed by what we had done. And we got to have our artwork exhibited in the museum! Those are all valuable experiences that will help us in the future. We also loved how much the museum staff trusted us to follow through on our ideas and that the teens who came to our event were willing to try new things in the museum. Most of us had never been to the Smart Museum before, so it was exciting to learn about another place to see art in our community.
After our official two weeks at the Smart Museum were up, Alisha and Kamiah came back on their own and helped lead tours for the museum. Alisha stated that, “I learned the way docents prepare for tours and how they work with different people and also different age groups.” The museum also let Alisha and Kamiah keep their artwork up for longer, so that more people visiting the Smart got to see it.
Thank you to the Smart Museum, all the staff that helped us with curating our event, helping us become docents (DOPEcents!), Stephen for being an extraordinary help (good luck in graduate school!), and our wonderful supervisors Marya and Shamerea who gave us an excellent foundation on how to propose, prepare, and execute a successful event and help us grow as leaders in arts administration and community engagement.