Teen arts education is central to the ICA. Teen Arts Council members meet with visiting artists to collaborate on creative projects. In our dedicated teen spaces, students learn valuable new-media skills like filmmaking and digital photography. Four times a year, hundreds of area teens take over the building for dynamic Teen Nights and hear music, dance, have a great time, and, of course, see and make art.

The ICA’s award-winning teen programming has grown exponentially in the past decade, pioneering programs that have not only succeeded but also changed the national conversation around teen arts education. The institution now serves more than 6,000 area youths annually, most of them at no cost, and popular programs such as Teen Arts Council and the national Teen Convening have become models for peer institutions, inspiring the creation of similar programs or regional offshoots around the country.

At the ICA, we believe that robust arts education—including learning by doing—is critical to building future artists, audiences, and engaged citizens, and we aim especially to create a more equitable education for urban youths. Members of our Teen Arts Council and Fast Forward programs, among others, return year after year, becoming familiar faces that we get to see learn, grow, do amazing things, and head out into the world.

Learn about our programs

Teen Convening

The only event of its kind to place the youth voice at the center of the shaping and development of teens’ arts education on a national scale, the annual Teen Convening brings together teens and educators from museums across the country to collaboratively discuss the issues, possibilities, and potential of teens in museums. Using a teen-driven format since its inception in 2009, the three-day Teen Convening also provides much-needed professional development, training, and a specialized professional community for participating organizations and staff.

With demand at an all-time high, the ICA has opened up portions of the Convening to the public and has supported organizations across the country in the implementation of regional forums on teens in the arts as a means of expanding the geographic reach and impact of the Teen Convening.

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Teen Nights

What happens when you invite teens to a party in an art museum? Teen Nights, the ICA’s art happenings organized and promoted for teens, by teens. Our Teen Arts Council plans these themed evenings, which can include artist talks, workshops, and other fun activities designed to expose their peers to contemporary art. What will these creative minds come up with next?

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A multidisciplinary arts engagement program for 7th- through 12th-grade students, Wall Talk encourages close observation, open discussion, and individual connections to contemporary art through writing, visual art, and spoken word. Working closely with teaching artists and writers, students participate in multiple museum and classroom visits over the course of a school year in which they observe, question, interpret, and respond creatively and critically to the art of our time.

The WallTalk Reading Jam brings together participants from multiple schools, creating an opportunity to share their spoken-word work with their peers. The event provides students a public forum and live audience to exercise their public speaking and presentation abilities.

Each year, we create a publication to document our process and showcase student work.
View the 2019–2020 publication

In 2020–2021, our teaching artists created a special publication, an Artist Activity Book.
Download the 2020–2021 publication
Descargue la publicación 2020-2021 en español

Teen Arts Council

An intensive leadership development program, the Teen Arts Council (TAC) utilizes arts engagement, creative action, and positive youth development practices to build real-world skills. Youths in the TAC hone their abilities to collaborate, innovate, take positive risks, and manage projects from inception to completion. Composed of 15 high-school-age teens from neighborhoods across the Boston region, the TAC meets weekly during the school year to explore the world of contemporary art, delve into ICA exhibitions and performances, meet with exhibiting artists, and introduce art and the museum to other youth groups and organizations. Central to the program is the use of the arts as a means to connect with and impact teens’ broader communities. Four times a year the TAC plans, markets, and implements dynamic Teen Nights open to the greater public and co-produces artist documentaries for their peers. Spending upwards of 10 hours a week in the museum, TAC members become integral to the fabric of the ICA, and often return year after year.

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Boston Public School students may qualify to participate in the BPS Credit Bearing Initiative.

Fast Forward

Free for all participants, Fast Forward (FF) is an advanced, year-long, new media program through which up to 24 teens develop audio and film works for critique, presentation, and distribution. Students meet weekly and are divided by experience into two groups; more advanced students may work independently for a third year. With ICA education staff and guest teaching artists, participants gain experience with both digital and analog filmmaking, lighting, sound, and animation. Teens also develop public-speaking skills in preparation for their exciting film premiere in the ICA’s Barbara Lee Family Foundation Theater. Additionally, the Teen Film Mentor Program matches advanced FF teens with local artists and media professionals, who provide feedback on works in process and guidance on media-based careers. FF students have the option to submit their finished works to local, regional, and national film festivals.

Boston Public School students may qualify to participate in the BPS Credit-Bearing Initiative.

Learn more

See Fast Forward student work

New-Media Workshops

Ranging from one-day intensives to multi-session or multi-week classes, Teen New-Media Courses help teens develop new-technology- and media-based skills such as digital photography, DJing, and film while working with teaching and guest artists. The approximately 30 courses on offer, serving approximately 250 students annually, take place after school, on weekends, and during school vacations, and are sequential in material, so that teens can continue to build skills over one or more years. Experienced students interested in longer-term commitments can join the professional ICA Teen DJ Collective or Digital Photography Club (see Teen Art Collectives below).

All Teen New-Media Courses are offered at no cost to the participant. Boston Public School students may also qualify to participate in the BPS Credit-Bearing Initiative.

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Teen Art Collectives

Teens looking to deepen skills in specific areas may join advanced Teen Art Collectives. Each collective meets weekly throughout the school or calendar year, and students may participate for multiple years. The groups develop social and professional identities, and advanced work prepares students for professional work or study in their preferred medium: spoken word, digital photography, music production, or DJing.

Current Teen Art Collectives include:

The ICA Slam Team is a youth spoken-word program encompassing both writing and performance. Participants meet weekly to write, rehearse, and perform their own original works and explore the power of their voices. Teens work with spoken-word mentors to develop their skills, attend multiple open-mic youth forums, perform at ICA Teen Nights, and ultimately compete as a team in public events and competitions such as the annual Louder Than a Bomb Youth Poetry Festival.

Boston Public School students may qualify to participate in the BPS Credit-Bearing Initiative.

Learn more

The Digital Photography Club meets Saturdays, with a professional photographer, to study advanced elements of digital photography, visit area collections and photography studios, develop portfolios, curate student exhibitions, and build technical skills.

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The ICA Teen DJ Collective meets with the Advanced DJ and Music Production Group on Saturdays. Participants may apply their newly acquired DJing skills at internal and external events in Boston. Students are introduced to professional DJs from the Boston area to better understand the business.

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The Advanced DJ and Music Production Group currently meets for two-to-four-week workshops on Saturdays through the school year. The curriculum includes film scoring and dance music production, among other forms.

Artist Encounters

Artist Encounters pair locally, nationally, and internally recognized contemporary artists in different genres with Boston-area teens to collaboratively develop and implement artistic projects in a range of media. Previous artists include Matthew Ritchie, Swoon, Dario Robleto, Beatrix*JAR, Wes Bruce, and Aaron Rose. Each Artist Encounter takes on a different format and length depending on the project at hand; programs have ranged from one week to one year.

See ICA Teens’ interviews with artists

Teen Alumni Program

Alumni from extended programs such as Teen Arts Council and Fast Forward often remain in contact with the ICA. A survey of Teen Program alumni (specifically from Teen Arts Council and Fast Forward) conducted in 2012–13 demonstrated the positive long-term impact of ICA program participation, including improved analytical, public speaking, and leadership skills, as well as the development of a stronger sense of identity and college preparation. Of the participants, 98 percent of Fast Forward alumni and 100 percent of Teen Arts Council alumni felt the relationships developed with ICA staff were “very important” to their personal development. To sustain and monitor these benefits, the ICA continues to grow this network and engage alumni as mentors and instructors, as well as hosting alumni gatherings where alums can reconnect with one another and with the ICA.

Alumni from the Fast Forward advanced filmmaking program manage a media production and consulting business within the ICA. Working in the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Family Digital Studio, the Fast Forward Alumni Media Production Team works with various departments within the ICA as well as with external clients through the ICA’s special-events department and word of mouth. Alumni managers coordinate all aspects of the business with oversight from the ICA’s Teen Programs staff.

Awards and Recognition

In 2012, the ICA was one of 12 institutions chosen from a pool of more than 350 nominations and 50 finalists to receive a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The highest honor available to after-school and out-of-school programs in the United States, the award honors community-based arts and humanities programs that make a marked difference in the lives of their participants by improving academic scores and graduation rates, enhancing life skills, developing positive relationships with peers and adults, and enabling them to express themselves creatively. The ICA was specifically cited for its effectiveness in developing leadership and life skills in teens by engaging them in a broad range of arts education programming.

Lead support for Teen Programs provided by Wagner Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Rowland Foundation, Inc.; The Willow Tree Fund; the Cabot Family Charitable Trust; Mathieu O. Gaulin; the William E. Schrafft and Bertha E. Schrafft Charitable Trust; the Nathaniel Saltonstall Arts Fund; the Mass Cultural Council; the Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation; the Deborah Munroe Noonan Memorial Fund, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee; MFS Investment Management; BPS Arts Expansion Fund at EdVestors; the Bessie Pappas Charitable Foundation, Inc.; and the Charlotte Foundation.

Converse is committed to supporting movements for positive social change and amplifying youth voices as they build the future they believe in.