Teen Museum Takeover
The Teen Intensive is an annual two-week program that brings teens together to explore their own creative processes by meeting with artists and museum staff, participating in art-making workshops, and working together to address ideas and issues that are important to them in the context of the RISD Museum.
The Teen Intensive is reflective of the teens that are involved each year, and the guest speakers, workshops, and art-making activities differ depending on what that year’s teens are interested in making and what ideas they are passionate about exploring. The process of choosing guest artists, speakers, and workshops was informed by what the teens expressed interest in through the intro survey and their interviews. Through analyzing the survey and getting to know the teens during their interviews, we were able to understand the styles of art they were interested in, areas they wanted to learn more about, some of the artists and ideas that excited them, and some of the things they were most passionate about. This year’s group expressed a variety of interests, passions, and motivations, allowing them to meander the space of the RISD Museum and make it their own during their time here.
The teens had the opportunity be up close with objects in the collection during their discussions with curators and conservators about their work and research. They also participated in workshops with local artists and poets. A comic artist inspired them to make comics of their own and to think about how to express emotions and actions through drawing. A local poetry slam poet performed powerful spoken word poetry for the teens and offered them the opportunity to write alongside him to a prompt, encouraging them to share what they wrote with the group. The variety of workshops and discussions powerfully impacted the group and gave each participant an opportunity to explore their unique and specific interests.
In survey responses and interviews, a few of the teens expressed interest in contemporary art while many of them made references to more historical artists and time periods. We took that as opportunity to expose them to contemporary art on a bigger scale by taking them to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Once there, the teens were given an hour to explore the galleries and absorb what they were seeing and experiencing.
Amber Lopez shared her research surrounding the print portfolio Sobre las Bienales Americanas de Grabado by allowing the teens to look as she slowly paged through the prints, giving a peak into her process as a researcher while also sharing the magical experience of being so close to works of art. The teens then explored the printmaking process. They were given sketch prompts based on their experience with Amber, then were asked to sketch a response based on their visual reflection. They then thought more deeply, sketching out a response to what they were feeling about the things they were seeing. Each of those sketches was carved into a foam block and used to make woodblock-style prints in black ink on colored paper.
Laurie Brewer explored the work of Todd Oldham with the teens in the exhibition All of Everything. After learning about Todd’s ideas and processes through the conversations with Laurie, the teens incorporated a Todd Oldham–designed button into small clay works of their own design.
The teens were given homework assignments to encourage them to continue thinking about what we explored during the day, to reflect their own personal creative process, and to share with the group the following day. The teens could do whatever they wanted as long as it was their own and somehow connected to their experience during the day or their experience of the Teen Intensive as a whole. To focus them on connecting themselves to the process, they were required to respond to two questions. Those questions were
*What were you thinking about when you made the art piece?
How does your art piece connect to something that you saw or experienced during the Teen Intensive?
The questions encouraged the teens to be thoughtful and intentional about what they were making and how they were reflecting. By sharing what they were thinking about, the teens were able to express what was most important to them and what parts of the experience stood out, and to begin to understand how that sort of reflection might inform their art-making or creative process. The second question encouraged them to focus on how the piece was directly related to experience, helping them to understand the dialog between art making and experiencing. The teens really enjoyed the personal reflective process, the opportunities to express themselves in their own style and share their work with the other teens.
“The sight of that oil and canvas touch her heart more than anyone in her world. The feeling she gets is incomprehensible, like a new language or universe, art like this has a special place in her soul. She never expected to form such a bond with an inanimate object rather than a human being. Every inch of it was perfect to her, it made her feel understood. Like she wasn’t alone anymore. It opened her eyes to see things a new way. It helped her find herself after she thought she’d be lost forever. It sent her to a new world, one where she could be herself completely. And deep down she hoped that one day maybe she’d find someone that would give her the same feeling as that painting did.”
Lilliana’s creative response to a painting she discovered during the Teen Intensive. The Teen Intensive was a true melding of ideas and experiences that allowed the teens to connect and grow as individuals and within the group. The intersection of the voices of talented artists and staff with the voices of the talented and explorative teens resulted in a truly unique and powerful experience. The teens were able to have compelling conversations that were specific to their interests in a space that felt comfortable to them, allowing them to ask questions that were important to them. Balancing intentionality with flexibility and allowing the process to unfold was a challenging yet rewarding experience for the teens and the staff involved. The authentic connections that the teens made within themselves and among each other in the short two weeks were truly inspiring and spoke to the specific ability of the art museum to make connections between ideas, issues, stories, and teens.
Maghan Stone is a recent graduate in museum education interested in exploring educational programming as an artistic process, and in the art museum’s capacity for drawing people together through programming and community partnerships.