For Teens, By Teens: Expanding Contemporary Art’s Impact at Artpace

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The 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council. Courtesy photo.

Since last September a group of passionate, inquisitive teens have established themselves as an integral part of the Artpace community—they are members of the 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council.  Unlike other local community arts programs offered for teenagers that are centered in the studio, the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council goes beyond art making to help students gain resume-building experience and insight into careers in the arts. Oh yeah, and they’re also paid. It’s probably one of the coolest jobs available to creative San Antonio teens. As the assistant curator of education at Artpace, I get to work with them.

There are two ways for teens to get involved with Artpace: high school students can apply for the 2014-2015 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council by Friday, May 23 and/or they can attend Artpace’s Teen Scene, a free event hosted for teens, by teens, on Saturday, May 31 from 7-10 p.m.

Artpace brings some of the most innovative art and artists from all over the world to San Antonio while providing free community access through its educational outreach programs, particularly the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council.

The council was established at Artpace in fall 2012, modeled after successful teen art councils at contemporary art organizations around the country. Teen members come from public, private and charter schools and reflect the diversity of the San Antonio community.

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members sharpen their abilities to observe, think critically about, and discuss art while becoming leaders in the community. Students interact with international artists-in-residence and create and promote programs and events at Artpace for their teen peers in the San Antonio community, helping expand the organization’s reach. The You[th]Pace Teen Art Council not only increases access to art but also emboldens future generations of art enthusiasts.

Members of the 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council explore Artpace exhibitions.

Members of the 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council explore Artpace exhibitions.

Artpace has designed the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council as a program run for teens, by teens. Each school year 15 members are selected through a competitive application and interview process.

Teen Art Council members meet at Artpace each week to discuss new exhibitions, explore conceptual ideas, collaborate on projects and just hang out. The goal is to make Artpace a place where teens feel comfortable

“It’s like a hybrid of a job and a club,” said one young council member.

Members of the 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council explore Artpace exhibitions

Members of the 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council explore Artpace exhibitions.

My role at Artpace enables me to serve as a mentor for You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members, introduce them to the foundations of contemporary art and ultimately help them harness their creativity, imagination, and enthusiasm to focus on one culminating teen-driven project, the Capstone.

YouthPaceTeenArtCouncilLogoThis year’s group is hosting a Teen Scene event, which will feature a student-created art exhibition and activities as well music, a photo booth, screen-printing, food and more.

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members are equipped with what the Institute of Museum and Library Services calls “21st  century skills” that include collaboration, communication, leadership, respect, personal and civic responsibility, global awareness, creativity, and innovation — skills that will give students confidence to navigate any educational or professional setting.

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members get a behind the scenes tour of the Artpace workshop with Studio Director, Riley Robinson. Photo by Francisco Cortes

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members get a behind the scenes tour of the Artpace workshop with Studio Director, Riley Robinson. Photo by Francisco Cortes.

The goal is not necessarily to encourage these students to become artists, but to shape well-rounded creative thinkers who approach whatever they pursue with an artist’s zeal.

“Artists and teens have an immediate connection because they are both actively engaged in asking questions about life and culture and in overturning the status quo,” said Kathy Halbreich, former Director of the Walker Art Center.

Through access to Artpace’s international artists-in-residence students learn to think like artists and will hopefully integrate the creative process into whatever disciplines they pursue.

Teen Workshop with artists Mark Menjivar and Jason Reed. Photo by Xelina Flores-Chasnoff

Teen Workshop with artists Mark Menjivar and Jason Reed. Photo by Xelina Flores-Chasnoff.

The inaugural group of You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members met with marketing professionals to create the name and brand, deciding on You[th]Pace as an homage to Artpace founder Linda Pace that exudes young energy.

Current students continue to gain professional skills through opportunities such as writing entries for the Artpace blog and creating social media posts for Artpace’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

One past member was thrilled to interview his favorite artist, former Artpace artist-in-residence Wangechi Mutu of Brooklyn for the Artpace blog. Council members also have exclusive access to these artists and workshops with exhibiting artists. One professional artist was so inspired by his experience working with the teens that he actually changed the direction of his project, integrating the ideas they discussed into his final exhibition.

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members work with artist Liz Glynn to mix concrete for sculptures. Photo by Taylor Browning

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members work with artist Liz Glynn to mix concrete for sculptures. Photo by Taylor Browning.

This year, among many other opportunities, students worked with Los Angeles-based artist Liz Glynn for a two-week workshop and experimented with a new medium, concrete. They were also introduced to performance art with San Antonio artist, Julia Barbosa Landois.

You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members learn to lead tours of Artpace exhibitions during teen events, translating their experiences from these artist encounters to their peers:

“The most valuable things I’ve gained from being a member of the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council are, of course, the friendships and new experiences but, most importantly, it is my new insight of contemporary art. Before visiting Artpace my knowledge of contemporary art was very limited, save for the brief moments we covered in art history. You[th]Pace has helped me become more social and inspired me to continue working as an artist.

“I think of the other members as my family and of the Artpace building as my safe space. I always look forward to the meetings every week and learning more about contemporary art excites me so much,”Brackenridge high School student Jennifer Zamora, a 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council member.  “I think being surrounded by artists and people who love art is a very good environment to be in and this is why I love Artpace and You[th]Pace so much.”

Since the establishment of the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council there has been a notable increase of teens in the Artpace building, a welcome diversification of the organization’s community. At a recent Artpace opening featuring local artists Vincent Valdez and Cathy Cunningham-Little there were over 500 people in attendance, a record-breaking number, including many You[th]Pace teens and their friends.

Crowd at Artpace opening night of Vincent Valdez and Cathy Cunningham-Little. Photo by Vincent Valdez

Crowd at Artpace opening night of Vincent Valdez and Cathy Cunningham-Little. Photo by Vincent Valdez.

Current You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members will participate in the selection process for next year’s new members, identifying skills and interests they recognize as important for the success of the group. Some are leaders, others are quiet doers, some are marketing mavens, and some are budding artists in their own right—an array of skills and personalities that all contribute something unique and necessary to the group’s dynamic.

Though the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council’s 15 members may seem like a small group, their collective impact has great potential. Through working with arts professionals to create and promote unique programs and events, they are expanding Artpace’s reach to teens all over San Antonio.

Many graduating You[th]Pace Teen Art Council members, not wanting their commitment with Artpace to end, have continued as volunteers with the organization or applied for internships with Artpace University Programs. Gabby Gonzalez, a 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council and graduating senior will return as an Artpace intern this summer.

The inaugural 2012-2013 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council. Courtesy photo.

The inaugural 2012-2013 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council. Courtesy photo.

Ultimately, the You[th]Pace Teen Art Council offers participants the opportunity to become ambassadors for contemporary art—enriching the San Antonio community through taking ideas generated by Artpace artists and making them relevant to their peers.

If you or someone you know is a high school student (15-18 years old) living in Bexar County, and an imaginative, curious, responsible, and team player, apply now for the 2014-2015 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council. Download an application and submit it by Friday, May 23, 2014.

All area high school students are invited to attend the upcoming free Teen Scene on Saturday, May 31 from 7-10 p.m.

*Featured/top image: The 2013-2014 You[th]Pace Teen Art Council. Courtesy photo.

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