Saturday, July 30, 2011

Emanuel: The emotional impact of a museum

(Visual created by Museum Teen Summit Youth)

How do you create and develop a relationship between museums and teens?

A museum needs to communicate to the teens a strong sense of its identity. What difference can it make in a teen's life? They have to see each other frequently for this to happen. This allows for more opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them. Both have to work together for the project to work. They have to listen to the opinions and suggestions and for this to happen you need respect and recognition. It's also important to offer teens something that they can do. Teens get told what not to do all the time: don't drink, don't go out late, don't do drugs, don't hang with those people. Offer them a new kind of freedom, one that empowers them. For my part I'm trying to see how you can get an emotional impact out of an experience with a museum because that's what we all remember. You need:
  • identity, both parties need to recognize who they are
  • respect, they have to listen to opinions and suggestions
  • freedom, an outlet or alternative in their lives
By Emanuel Pichardo

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jonah on the welcome mat at El Museo

It was the first time for many of us at El Museo Del Barrio. Personally, I fell in love with the institution the moment I read the large quotation above the entrance. The "welcome mat" reads " a museum is a school: the artist learns to communicate. The public learns to make connections." This statement made me feel engaged since it aligned with my personal opinion regarding museums. I was impressed with the amount of educational programs the small institution supports. I guess El Museo really is more like a school than a museum.

By Jonah Bleckner

While we're on the subject of love for El Museo...check out this fun video on the (S) Files Bienal currently on view.
El Museo's Bienal: The (S) Files 2011 from EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brandon & Gauguin ask the hard questions

Welcome to the Justice League! (aka the NYC Teen Museum Summit Week 1)

 To quote the title of Gauguin's tour de force "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going", last week teens tried to answer this question as it pertains to museums roles in society. Are museums simply a repository of objects and spaces preserved for future generations? Or can they be something different, a force for change? Marit Dewhurst led us through a riveting discussion of these questions and more as we tried to define the term "museum" and found ourselves mired in ambiguity. A particular emphasis was placed on the importance of the youth perspective. As potential museum educators and curators of the future it is our onus to ensure that we continue to build new bridges, different outreach approaches, and attract teens into the museum world. Museum education has a unique opportunity to provide supplementary and alternative spaces for education. As teens we can impart our experiences to shape those of future generations. by Brandon Eng

Monday, July 25, 2011

Top ten list for teen programs--what works

Last week, the NYC Museum Teen Summit made a trip to El Museo del Barrio where we were lucky to meet with Education staff members, Mairelys Alberto and Meghan Lally.  After falling in love with the new Bienal, The (S) Files and discussing how artists depict identity in their work, we headed outside for a hot brainstorming session. Since El Museo is in the process of ramping up their teen programs, we spent some time telling them about the most profound pieces of our own museum experiences.  

Here's our working list of 10 things that make teen programs shine (psst, museum educators, listen up): 

  1.  1. Learn about different priorities in different departments by meeting staff in communications, marketing, curatorial, etc. 
  2. Discuss hard-to-understand, conceptual art.  Dig into the artworks that everyone else says are too tricky. 
  3. Let youth put our own opinions into our work.  Don't tell us what to do/think/make.
  4. Make art
  5. Opportunities to teach other young people. 
  6. Trust young people to make decisions.  Don't just try to inject knowledge into us. 
  7. Work with living, breathing artists
  8. Give young people real projects to work on in the museum.  No fake exhibits, scaled-down tasks, imaginary events, or artwork that no one sees. 
  9. Create career pathways where we learn job skills and can move up in the museum.  We're happy to start at the bottom, but create spaces for us to grow. 
  10. Provide a variety of ways to be involved: drop-in, multiple-weeks, leadership programs, social programs, etc. As someone said on Wednesday, "Teen Programs: it's not just an after school special."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Museum Superheroes

With powerhouse youth leaders from so many museums working to transform museums for future generations, we've started calling ourselves the Justice League.  Too bold? We don't think so.

But what can we offer?

Halfway through our first session, in the midst of a discussion about the purpose of museums, Daniel from the Brooklyn Museum posed an excellent question: "I looked at the mission statement for this program and I have a question: If museums already have all of these smart people who've studied museums forever working to make museums better--what can we offer that they can't?" Three hands shot up. Emanuel, from El Museo del Barrio replied: "It's like how if you ask a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old what they want to do for a day, you'll get really different answers.  We can offer museums a different perspective on the same questions because we haven't been studying this for forever--our ideas are fresh.  They can help people who work in museums see things from a different angle." Joseph, from the Whitney chimed in: "Plus, we're the experts on what young people want." Fourteen heads nodded in agreement.

 In the first session of the NYC Museum Teen Summit, the conversation ranged from the role of museums in society to the power of Boards of Trustees over the "voice" of an institution!  Responding to a satirical (and mildly snarky) Pinky Show episode, youth leaders began to debate their own definition of a museum: Does it have to collect art? Does it need walls? Who gets to say it's a museum? (images coming soon!). We took these questions and applied them to collaborative collages about the role of museums in society.  After speed-drawing, writing, and magazine-cutting, we had an impressive exhibition of images...all of them with audience, community, and interactivity at the center. What can we offer?  How about a revolutionized vision of museums? Not bad for day one.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


15 Teen Leaders from 13 different high schools representing 12 museums for 6 weeks of art, investigations, and leadership activities across the city... starting in 1 day!