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.