Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Teen Artists: Impact of a Contemporary Art Museum

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Teen Artists: Impact of a Contemporary Art Museum

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine whether a yearlong, multivisit teen program in a contemporary art museum using a metacognitive approach affected how adolescents thought about art and, specifically, their own artmaking. This study explored the impact of a multivisit, yearlong, studio-focused teen program, Visions, based at a contemporary art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, Visions-now in its 16th year-has brought together approximately 40 art students from diverse high schools in a large metropolitan area for a series of activities designed to cultivate a richer understanding of contemporary art, design, and architecture and to foster interpersonal skills and collaboration. The program has exploited the unique learning opportunities for developing student artists that are possible within a contemporary art museum.

The content of many art curricula in high schools has included a focus on the elements and principles of design in compliance with state visual arts standards (Arizona Department of Education, 2006; Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, 2011; Ohio Department of Education, 2012; State of New Jersey Department of Education, 2009). Although the elements and principles have continued to be important in much contemporary art, the communication or expression of an idea often becomes the central concern to understanding and appreciating contemporary work. In the Visions program, students have been more broadly exposed to contemporary art and issues than in the traditional art classroom.

Multivisit teen programs have been commonly structured as teen advisory groups in which participating youth learn about exhibitions and offer input to museum programming that would draw a teen audience. Programs such as this exist in many museums including Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), and The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore). Another common structure for teen programming has been the teen docent program offered by Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM), (Bellevue, Washington), and The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, Connecticut), among others. Many museums have offered varied studio opportunities, but our research indicated that not many museums choose studio as the major component in their multivisit programs. In the Visions program, students engaged in learning about contemporary art through curator-led tours of exhibitions as well as through meaningful conversations with local, national, and international artists.

Visions has been based on a strong community partnership between the museum and participating schools. Teachers have actively participated and offered important components to the Visions program including management, transportation, and guidance. Each teacher has selected seven students from his/ her school to participate in the Visions program, and managed these students, ensuring that they attend all the scheduled events and obtain permission from parents. Students must have completed an application process to submit to their teachers that includes an essay articulating why the student feels s/he is a good candidate for the program. The teachers have provided transportation for the students, guaranteeing that the programs are well attended. At the museum, both students and teachers have created work in artist-led workshops. Students have been required to work independently, with their teachers' guidance, on final artworks and artist statements that will be displayed in the museum's youth gallery. Between museum visits, teachers have provided continuity and focus.

Adolescents have many stresses and concerns on any given school day, such as keeping up with coursework in several classes, participating in sports activities, taking tests, and navigating the social complexities of high school. A day in the Visions program, in the words of one student, was "more calm, fun, and focused. …

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