Teens Talk Programming and Art

By: deanna on March 10th, 2009

The Museum recently welcomed ten juniors from Mosinee High School for their annual Careers-in-Action Day. Arriving around 8:30 am, a group of not-yet-wide-eyed students took their seats and asked Museum staff questions ranging from “What still surprises you about your job?” to “Share a fun or interesting story about the Museum.” If you know the Museum staff, then you know we like to talk! I know I speak for those staff who participated in the experience – these students were Grade A.

[I once was a high school student who went on one of these jaunts myself. I was interested in fashion and art, my placement was Sears – don’t ask me how that happened – but it did result in one of my first jobs, in the juniors department.]

After the question session wrapped up, curator of exhibitions Andy McGivern took students behind-the-scenes. He later told me the students were insightful and asked many relevant questions. These experiences often lead to golden moments for both staff and students, highlighted by the “Aha, I get it” look on someone’s face.

Following the time with Andy, students broke into groups and each group received a file folder containing information on one upcoming exhibition, additional resource materials on the exhibition or artist, and previous events calendars. Their task: Come up with programming ideas for the exhibition. Each group worked diligently. The Children’s Book Magic group kept giggling while reading the children’s books. I can’t hold them at fault, I’ve read them and they’re funny!

Soon after our “think tank” was underway, our Papa John’s pizza lunch arrived. During the working lunch, students talked informally about their reasons for coming to the Museum, their love of art, and whatever else they felt like talking about. The lunch was both productive and delicious. I’m always amazed at the amount of pizza teens can eat, plus they never worry about all the carbs!

Having finished up their program proposals students presented their ideas to staff, who began a dialogue with students about the program potential of their ideas. This is stuff we can use! We invited students back to the Woodson Art Museum in the next year to see if their ideas become real programs.

Students then explored the galleries on their own with intern Maggie Christians and I available to answer questions and offer tidbits of information. By the time they left, I felt these ten Mosinee High School juniors knew the Museum better and felt more comfortable here. We said our goodbyes and off they went, back to rows of desks, tests, and lockers.

When reflecting on this experience, I felt the warm fuzzies. These experiences have so much value not only for the students but also for staff. We had the opportunity to listen to the insights of teenagers, a group whose attention we often struggle to capture. I hope I’ll see their faces around here again, maybe for the upcoming “Aunt Gladys” Residency, or in next year’s Student Art Exhibition. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad they chose the Woodson Art Museum as their Careers-in-Action site.

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