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Day of the Event Wrap-Up

The Theme:

From February to April, we scheduled a series of trainings to discuss, plan, create, generate, and work towards putting together a convening around a subject that the teens found of most interest: Freedom. This theme came from popcorning a few words/ideas out to the teens to see what would stick, and what content could be created around the topic. Freedom was one that sparked a lot of interesting questions, conversations, and debates. It also looked different for each person in the room, so it felt like a great topic to dissect further with a group of invited teens and educators. The teens chosen to produce this event were from our Marwen Internship, Teen Lab, and Teen Council.

The AIC Regional Teen Convening took place on Saturday, April 29 from 10am-3pm. It brought together youth and mentors from the following organizations:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • SkyArt
  • University of Chicago Arts and Public Life
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
  • Homan Square
  • Adler Planetarium
  • Marwen

The event kicked off with a few unique and awkwardly perfect icebreakers that enlisted toilet paper and hand-holding to share facts about ourselves and connect quickly with one another. Immediately following, teens from each organization gave a formal presentation about their respective sites and programs. To wrap the morning session, our Teen Lab member, Meisha Williams, introduced our theme and offered some context for how this came to be.

After some lunch and friendly conversations, attendees were divided into randomized groups of youth and adults to visit the galleries. Through intimate discussions in front of works of art, attendees connected by sharing experiences and began to tackle the concept of freedom through art objects.

In the Surrealism galleries, attendees responded within their small groups to prompts about identity. Some favorites included: What work of art reminds you of a significant memory? What work of art represents your feelings at this moment?

In Zhang Peili: Record. Repeat, attendees responded to prompts reflecting on freedoms we take for granted, freedoms we wish we had, and freedoms being expressed or suppressed.

Returning back to the studios, attendees dove deeper into the topic of freedom, engaging in small group discussions guided by youth-generated questions. From parasite insects, to the pressures of financial freedoms, the group collectively discussed the complicated and subjective definition of freedom and reflected on their values, hopes, and fears for the future of freedom. Some takeaways from the discussion:

Upon leaving, attendees filled out a postcard with 1-2 takeaways from the experience they would like to be reminded of in one month.


The teens worked together to create an event that felt immersive, interesting, and insightful from start to finish. During each training leading up to the Convening we would leave time to reflect on what was discussed, push ourselves a bit further, and leave them with a charge to come prepared for the following meeting. They did not disappoint. With each training leading up to the day of the event and the actually event itself, the teens gained more confidence, excitement, and investment in workshopping through their ideas. This prepared them to facilitate the day of with ease, and enjoy what they had worked so hard on producing for their fellow teens and Youth Educators across the Chicagoland area.

Reflection of the Teen Convening: Brooklyn Revolution of Self Expression

Orlando Pazol Mendoza, 20 years old, Teen Programs Assistant and Teen Convening Planning Committee

The Teen Convening Brooklyn planning committee made up 6 Brooklyn Museum Teen Programs Staff members planned, coordinated, and facilitated this event inspired by ICA Boston Teen Convening. The goal of our Teen Convening: Brooklyn was to empower teens to lead vital conversations about young people in the arts, which lead to the title of the Teen Convening: Brooklyn being A Revolution of Self Expression. Our Teen Convening: Brooklyn featured a program filled with different activities lead by different organizations and partners. There were four performances, three workshops centering theme of revolution, three workshops centering creative expression, 1 min intro for every organization to share about their work, gallery talks led by Brooklyn Museum Teen Staff, and breakout discussions led by Brooklyn Museum Teen Staff and Educators. While some of these activities were going on, there was also a resource fair where organizations provided more information and materials about their work. Partners included Urban Word NYC, the Brotherhood/SisterSol, Girls for Gender Equity, Earth Guardians, and A.V.O Boyz, to name a few.

This Teen Convening: Brooklyn was amazing because the program in all of its sections and parts was led by young people. This created a space where all the participants, including performers, could interact in a safe, positive environment, free from judgement. However, the most important impact the Teen Convening: Brooklyn had on me,was the fact that this convening was able to bring different amazing people, with different backgrounds, talent, passions, and creativity all to share their work and learn from each other. This was special,  because throughout the entire Teen Convening even though there was so much diversity, and different people in different stages of their lives, there was a unity that brought all of us together despite our differences, thus creating connections, and network between all the young people who participated in the event. Another interesting thing that happened was that many young people like me had the opportunity to emerge into different activities, and try new things. For example, I have always feared writing poetry, I love reading it but writing it and finding rhythm is difficult. However, in the Poetry workshop led by Urban Word NYC Slam Poetry, I felt empowered to write a poem. I felt compelled to do so by the way the 3 poets were interacting with us. They were so different from your typical English teachers, who rushed to teach through poetry. The Urban Work NYC Slam Poetry crew were able to talk about the personal connection of poetry in a unique way, that really inspired me. In the same way, all of young people’s creativity and passions were displayed throughout the whole program. For example, for the two different gallery talks happening simultaneously  (Life Death & Transformation — Shells + Music = The Sweetest sound you probably never heard, and We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85 (led by Museum Apprentices Jorge & Isabella)), the performances having 3 Urban Word NYC Slam Poet and then a dance performance by A.V.O Boyz (Africa’s Very Own Dance Crew). The list goes on and on , but all in all this Teen Convening is an event was amazing.

Work In Progress

By Charlie Diaz / Teen Council Member, Education Intern

Laguna Gloria, which houses the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, was warm and humid when participants started arriving, on May 6th. Friendly new faces from all over Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, gathered for breakfast and introductions. During check in and a game, we found some kindred spirits, and bonded over answering wacky questions, like what fruits we found to be representative of our personalities.

Once we had all warmed up to each other, we piled into a classroom to get more formally introduced. Each institution, with a pair of teens, and an educator or two, introduced themselves and the teen programming at their museum. I was blown away at what I heard. Teen curated exhibits, social justice theater troupes, and interactions with artists in residence. Every teen program introduced was more incredible than the next, and I was amazed at all of these art spaces I had never explored, so close to my home! Next, Betelhem Makonnen, an amazing artist, led us on the next phase of our journey. We were set free into the grounds, mirrors and frames in hand. We all wandered, taking pictures of ourselves, the landscape, and others through reflections in the mirrors, all the while playing with the idea of “true sight” and “vision”. When we reconvened to see everything we had taken, (Check out our Instagram @atxconvening) I was delighted to see the creative and beautiful ways that everyone had captured themselves. It truly was a new way to see Laguna Gloria, a space with which I am thoroughly acquainted, and a great way to get to know the other participants too.

After lunch, we headed to the Jones Center located downtown, the other location of the Contemporary Austin. After vehemently professing our love for one another, (Have you ever played “Honey, I Love You?”), we got down to business. We had timed discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of art institutions, all centering on how both teens and museums are works in progress, and how art spaces have impacted us personally. I loved hearing how different art spaces were helping teens and thinking about how we can do more. After that, the teens and adults split off to do separate reflections and came back together for the highlight of the day, Letterpressing. In an effort to be conscious of the messages we align ourselves with, we discussed phrases for our projects while we stood surrounded by an art piece, With Liberty and Justice for All (A Work In Progress) by Jim Hodges, who’s words so boldly proclaim “WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL”. We then all crafted phrases that we stood behind; “This is Art”, “Pride”, “Do the Work!”, “Feminism” and curiously, “Know Ham”.  We then printed the meticulously chosen phrases on totes, paper and handkerchiefs. Not too long later, we said our goodbyes, and parted ways, but I’m so grateful to have had this experience with these amazing unique people. I think the day was really productive and fun, and I think we all learned something about other museums, art, and ourselves.

Teen Convening Reflection

I have so much gratitude for being included in the teen convening this year. The presentations about the different programs were all engaging and inspiring to hear about. Everyone’s views of the importance of art were very different but at the same time very alike. I was very grateful for the support of all the other students and adults alike. I loved hearing about the students who make different forms of art and their artistic process as well as the students who engage with art and their thoughts about the future of art.

—Chaya B., 12th grade

It was genuinely an invaluable time to interact with fellow art-inclined Angelinos; the best session, for me personally, was the time designated for making the collaborative and interactive piece with other youth, and the information presentations that each organization gave regarding their particular program. If anything, all I might recommend would be the audience preparing questions for the panel beforehand. The whole day and give-aways were great! Quite a successful first time, I’d say. 🙂

—Victoria G., 12th grade

Going into the convening, I was not really sure what was going to happen and I was a little nervous to meet all the other teens and coordinators. However, I did not need to be nervous at all. Everyone was so friendly and easy to talk to and I felt like I had known everyone for years. The performances were outstanding and I felt so jealous of everyone’s talents. It was amazing being able to share all our experiences and responsibilities with the other teens and got to understand how other teen programs work, and how much impact they have on the teens in the program and the teens in our city. I almost teared up multiple times during the convening because of how much of a community I felt between me and the other people at the convening. Nothing is better than being able to have endless conversations with people who have similar interests and outlooks on the world, especially when the thing you love is something most people do not understand. With the current political climate and kids my age not understand or caring about art like we used to, it is so important to me to be able to see all these other people who care so much about how powerful and essential art is to the world.

—Lilly M., 12th grade

Art in a worldly sense has always been seen as inferior to contributions such as medicine, computer science, etc; yet the art world is one of the most complex, positive contributors to society. The Regional Teen Convening held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a prime example of this. During these few number of hours, a network of support, creativity, and kindness was built instantaneously. From the presentations of each program’s workings and contributions to performances from various members of all scopes of creativity, the Teen Convening exhibited a look into just a sliver of the magnificence that encompasses the arts. Following an afternoon of shared experiences, skills, and lunch, each member gained knowledge and worldliness from listening to one another. The Regional Teen Convening was a definite success, and a perfect example of the intellect and support that embodies the importance of art in today’s society, and on.

-–Zara S., 11th grade

The Teen Convention held at LACMA was extremely enlightening. Through this eye-opening experience I was not only able to learn of the diverse opportunities within the city of Los Angeles, but also I was shown, once again, the intense passion and love the educators and interns have for their programs and art. Meeting with the different interns and educators and listening in during the panel discussion and other various activities was an interesting experience. Through the discussions and activities we were shown the most unique and intriguing aspect of art; the varying but also coinciding interpretations and opinions were shown as we discussed the topics of art, art education, and the future. The teen convening held at LACMA was an extremely rewarding and helpful experience.

—Brian H., 12th grade

In February, the High Museum of Art hosted its second convening for teens. Over 70  teens and educators attended from local community groups including, The High Museum of Art, Alliance Theatre, My World, New American Pathways, Global youth ambassadors, Re:Imagine ATL, Chop Art, National center for Civil and Human rights, and the Boys and Girls Club. In addition, to these teen groups, we also hosted Carlie Bristow, teen programs associate at ICA Boston, home of the National Convening of Teens in the Arts.

The day began with bagels and conversation before the group headed into the Hill Auditorium on the High’s campus. The Alliance Theatre teens led an icebreaker and then each community group introduced themselves, their representatives, and shared what their organization does. Immediately following introductions, we moved into roundtable discussions facilitated by members of the High’s Teen Team. These discussions were a great way to empower teens to share their ideas and feedback.

We asked the questions:

  • What do teens bring to community groups and institutions?
  • Why is it important to co create programming with teens?
  • How do teens take what they are learning and apply it to other areas of their life?
  • How are we using social media to share our work and what other platforms are being or should be used?
  • How does involvement with community groups enhance or impact your school experience?
  • What leadership opportunities do community groups offer to teens?

The discussions were followed by an Indigo dying workshop and gallery tours led by teaching artists Brittaney McDermott and Christy Petterson. After the workshop we shared our take aways and next steps in the closing circle. We all agreed that spending a day together talking about our organizations and shared goals was a powerful way to build community in Atlanta and support teens.

Reflection by Sarah K.

(Originally posted on VoxATL)

The High Museum’s 2017 Teen Convene can be summed up with one word: unifying. Teens representing organizations across Atlanta came together on Saturday, February 4th to discuss ways to make our community more inclusive, and bond over games, art making, food, and tours. After sending representatives to a Nation Teen Convene in Boston over the summer, the High Museum organized a regional Teen Convene so that teens and organizations involved in art could meet for a day and exchange ideas. New American Pathways, Global Youth Ambassadors, My World, Reimagine ATL, Boys and Girls Club, Chop Art, The Alliance Theatre, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the High museum were all represented. The topic dominated most conversation was inclusivity, as the representatives from each organization sincerely wanted to make the community a better place for those living in it. Events such as Teen Convene are especially important in the intense and divisive political climate that we are experiencing right now, because it encourages us to get out of their comfort zone and talk about controversial topics that need to be addressed, and connect with people that they may not usually have the opportunity to connect with. In the discussion groups that broke out midway through the day, we were able to share personal experiences and advice in speaking their mind, and being as open as possible to others. As a member of the High Museum’s Teen Team, I can honestly say that the lessons I learned by interacting with the organizations present at Teen Convene will follow me through the rest of my life, and allow me to be more supportive to those around me.

Reflection by Rebecca M.

The thing about unity, I’ve found, is you never really think about it until you’re in one of those moments where you’re hit over the head with its weight. It changes its face, but is always somehow recognizable. Sometimes, all of a sudden, you become acutely aware of the interconnectedness of human beings—-you could be at a concert surrounded by people loving the same band or walking through a haunted house with a group of strangers. Or, as in my case, you could be freezing to death early on a Saturday morning, and, remarkably, find yourself happier for it.

Though my experience began with clinging to the fleeting warmth of my coffee, the day of the High Museum of Art’s regional Teen Convening proved to be even more fulfilling than I had imagined it would be (this is not an easy task, as days at art museums are already more fulfilling than most days spent elsewhere). We spent the day learning about the great work being done in our community by different teen-based organizations, connecting with people with whom we may never have otherwise crossed paths, and discussing topics that brought us all together.

Whether we were talking about school, art, social issues, or being a teenager in general, everyone was both interesting in their own right and genuinely interested in what the others had to say, which led to conversations so thought-provoking they felt like tangible accomplishments. By the end of the day, I had not only learned about the wide array of opportunities offered to teenagers in Atlanta, but I had met some exceptionally kind, creative kids, all with their own stories to tell and their own thoughts to bring to the table. Most importantly, however, I was reminded once again of that strange feeling of unity—-of how bright things can seem when people are brought together by a common passion, a collective experience, or even, perhaps most importantly of all, a unifying hatred of the cold.

Crystal Bridges’ Teen Council hosted their first Teen Convening at the museum from March 31 through April 2,  2017. National Teen Convenings were first established in 2009 by the Institute of Contemporary Arts/Boston as a way of bringing teens and museum educators together from museums across the country and putting their voices at the center of the discussions about teen programming at museums. Since then, a number of smaller, regional convenings have also been developed. In 2016, representatives from Crystal Bridges’ Teen Council attended the National Convening in Boston (you can read the report from the Convening here). This year, the Council invited teens from three regional museums to Crystal Bridges for a regional Convening of their own. Teen Council member Alex Cantey prepared this report. 

Teen Convening/Bentonville (n.) — a gathering at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art of educators and teens representing regional museums and their teen programs for the purpose of learning from each other and using what they learn to better their museums and their teen programs

One of the most interesting things about the Teen Convening was how unique each teen and educator was and how we learned from each other. From the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Emma and Rachel brought their creative use of space for a Teen Night. Chloe and Emily from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, brought their incorporation of performance arts like music and slam poetry. The Dallas Museum of Art teens, Nikki and Tara, brought their TAC (Teen Advisory Council) community and camaraderie to our Teen Council. The teens shared their experiences and shaped a new field of ideas to further the teen program here at Crystal Bridges.

The weekend was packed! Teen Council members broke the ice with the visiting teens through get-to-know-you games, pizza, and a quick tour of Crystal Bridges. Saturday morning started with breakfast at the museum, then teen representatives gave public presentations about teen programs at their institutions. After lunch was a panel discussion, which featured artist Paul Rucker, around the topics of teens and community collaborations through the arts. Then our visitors had free time to explore Bentonville while the Teen Council members prepared for Teen Night: Enigma.

The night was filled with live music from local band Willowack, plus face painting, button making, a scavenger hunt in the “1940s to Now” gallery, a DJ and dancing, and a collaborative mural with artist Octavio Logo.

The last day featured breakfast and roundtable discussion—my personal favorite. Roundtable discussions happened in two groups: the teen group and the educators group. The teens split into three groups—no one from the same museum in a group—and then each group created their ideal museum. With just a few leading questions and imagination, the teens created unique and amazing museums. Teens came up with their museum’s architectural design, collection focus, programs, and clever names including The OCT (Organization of Contemporary Themes), The Undiscovered Underground, and Fort eARTh. Interestingly, all of the museums featured sustainable gardens that provided food for the museum restaurants! The fun and free roundtable discussions allowed the teens to get closer and have great conversations. We got to look back and take what we learned from each other to create an ideal place for teens of the future. It was a great ending to a crazy, fun weekend. The convening allowed me to feel connected to teens I would never have known before.

Crystal Bridges Teen Council member Alex Cantey is a junior from Haas Hall Academy Bentonville. She enjoys appreciating the arts and at this moment wishes to major in art history. She is president of her school’s forensics and debate team and captain of the state champ tennis team.