Teen Art Squad New Opportunity For Local High School Students

Plains Art Museum develops program bringing teens, art and community together

By Kelsie O’Keefe
MSUM Mass Comm Major

Plains Art Museum’s Teen Art Squad gets area high school students involved in art and the community, while helping them gain useful knowledge and experience to prepare them for college and beyond.

The Teen Art Squad is a group of regional teenagers who work with the museum education staff to develop and implement teen-focused art programs through the Plains Art Museum. The goal is to create a partnership between the museum and area teenagers which will strive to inspire and engage teens in hopes of promoting community, culture and the arts.

Area high school students have a chance to learn, make friends, and create a partnership with the community.
photo provided by Plains Art Museum

Art Squad not just for artists

The Teen Art Squad program is new this year, starting at the beginning of the 2010 school year.
It was researched and developed by Timothy Lillehaugen, an intern working at the museum in summer 2009, with the help of Andrew Maus, the museum’s previous director of education.

“We want (students) who have a pulse on culture, politics and society because that’s what artists, writers and thinkers are working with,” says Maus.

About 10 students are chosen for the squad based on applications.

“They need not be skilled artists,” says Maus. “We believe that art making and art looking is for everybody, no matter what your skill sets.”

Art teachers throughout the region are being contacted in hopes of having student representation from as many high schools as possible.

Students decide

The idea of the program is to have students decide what they want to do, how they want to do it and who they want to involve.

“The opportunity to impact and shape the program would give (students) a sense of ownership, which is extremely powerful in itself,” says Kristi Nigg, counselor at West Fargo High School.

Although Sandy BenHaim, the museum’s new director of education and Colleen Sheehy, museum director, oversee the group and provide basic ideas to get students thinking, the squad ultimately decides what projects it wants to take on for the year.

Possibilities include:

  • Weekly open art studio night: The squad organizes and hosts nights for high school students to use the museum’s art studios to create their own works. Demonstrations could be held, or local artists could be invited to guide students.

  • Teen art celebration: During Youth Art Month the squad hosts a celebration for students to have the museum to themselves for an entire night. They could set up group projects like a graffiti wall, host a dance, create cities out of boxes or have a space for individual creativity.

  • Publication: The squad will produce a web or print publication focused on teen art and culture in the community.

  • 60-second movie contest: The squad will create and host a yearly themed, any genre movie contest and get the word out to the demographic they’ve chosen to target.

Squad helps students prepare for life, college

Because students have to apply for the Teen Art Squad and the selection is on a competitive basis, the program can do more for students than learning community-based art program planning.

“The Teen Art Squad program could benefit students on various levels,” says Nigg. “A program like this could teach students lifelong skills, which could include leadership and time management tools, and the importance of open communication. In addition, students could have the chance to connect with other teens in the community who have similar interests and passions.”

The squad could potentially provide opportunities and resources for students needing college scholarships, extracurricular experience and resume and application builders, says Nigg.

The Teen Art Squad gives students an opportunity to teach and learn from each other.
photo provided by Plains Art Museum

Teens involved across the country

Getting teens involved in art and the community seems to be a growing trend across the country. Plains Art Museum looked at more than 30 museums with programs for teens as models and inspiration.

Palm Springs Museum in California has a long history of teen programming, including a Teen Art Group.

“The museum is a place for teens to be creative, but with a safety net,” says Emily Spallina, education programs manager at the museum, who works almost exclusively with the teens. “There are no grades, no teachers, no judgment. By the end of the year, they feel a sense of ownership in the institution.”

In 2009 Palm Spring’s Teen Art Group planned a party at the museum. That night, the group hosted 340 kids.

“As kids start getting more excited about the projects, they start coming into the museum earlier and earlier,” says Spallina. “That’s my measure of success.”

Counselor recommends squad

Nigg says she will recommend the Teen Art Squad program to West Fargo High School students.

“Meaningful programs like this give students a chance to explore their creative potential, which builds confidence and motivates students to make positive and responsible decisions after high school,” says Nigg.

Parents are also urged to encourage their teens to join.

Connect, gain knowledge, have fun

The Teen Art Squad is open to all regional high school students entering grades 9-12 in the fall. Eight monthly meetings are held during the school year in the Presentation Center on the first floor of Plains Art Museum. Students are required to attend at least six of these meetings.

For applications call or email Sheehy at 701-232-3821 ex. 123 or csheehy@plainsart.org. Applications for the fall 2010 squad are due April 30.

The squad is an opportunity for students to connect with other teens, the community and themselves, gain knowledge for the future that they can’t get in class and above all, have fun.


Leave a Reply