I was lucky enough to catch a session at NAEA called Teen Programming in Museums mediated by three leaders in the field: Ryan Hill from Artlab+ at the Hirshhorn; Gabrielle Wyrick from the ICA Boston, and Hillary Cook from the Art Institute of Chicago (click on the images above to link to each institution’s teen programs). I came away with several impressions: first, that Ryan Hill is my hero; two, that the ICA kicks some serious butt; and most importantly, that the potential for our Learning Lab is HUGE.
The session was broken down into three general topics, with each mediator taking the lead on one and addressing it in the context of his/her institution: recruitment and retention; educator specialization and needs; and institutional buy-in. I’ll share just a few of my thoughts but I’m happy to answer any questions or give a more in-depth debrief in the future:
- Word of mouth has been the most successful recruitment tool for all three museums. According to Ryan, if you create a safe space with interest-driven programs, teens will want to share it with their friends.
- Each museum offers programs that range in commitment from low to high–this allows teens to self-curate based on their interests and helps with retention.
- Institutional buy-in is key. Both the Hirshhorn and ICA have it and the ownership teens are given over as a result is reflected in the dynamism of their programs. Serving teen audiences is actually part of the ICA’s mission statement, and they see about 17,000 teens a year. Their director will even hang with the teen council during their meetings!
- Relationships with mentors and staff are one of the most important factors for participants. At Artlab+, mentors work as a team; Ryan looks to add members to fill specific roles. Additionally, time for professional development is built into each week–for instance, they’ve recently started working with health care professionals on addressing teen developmental needs and issues.
All in all, the session was fantastic and really offered some good food for thought in terms of our grant. And to me, it reinforced a mantra that we heard from our other cohorts during the D.C. Learning Lab convening–“listen to what teens want, and do it”.