The Hottest New Teenage Hangout is... Museums?

Meghan Bright, 18, had never been to the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art before becoming a student in the museum’s Teen Apprenticeship Program earlier this year.  She heard about the program from her art teacher at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, and was only interested because she needed an afterschool activity.  Since completing the program, Meghan has begun visiting and volunteering at the museum often.

“I love MOCA, it’s like my little second home,” Bright said.  “I’ve had a good relationship with all the people here.”

She loved the fact that her apprenticeship at the museum, also known as MOCA, allowed her to try art forms she never would have had an opportunity to otherwise.  Bright now plans on studying art at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Teen Apprenticeship Program is a 12-week program that allows teens to experience making all types of art, work with teens that share their interests, and learn directly from artists.

“Meeting artists who have a living making art is very inspiring,” said Truly Matthews, Associate Curator of Education at MOCA in Virginia Beach.

Matthews is in charge of several programs aimed toward attracting more teenagers to the museums, including the Teen Apprenticeship Program, workshops and programs, and Teen Takeover Nights.

The museum also offers volunteer opportunities just for teens.  Teenagers can apply online to volunteer on the Teen Takeover Planning Committee, or take part in creating teen audio tours where they describe their thoughts on pieces of art.  They can also help the instructors of Art Camp monitor and teach kids about art.

These events and activities bring in more than 200 kids a year, Matthews said.  That’s not including teenagers visiting the museum just for the art.

“Teen Takeover Night” is a program recently implemented by MOCA.  It’s a two-hour event in which teens are welcomed into the museum after hours for live music, art-based activities, and access to certain galleries.

“It provides a safe place to go, a unique time only for that age group,” Matthews said.

The museum was dressed up for the occasion. Festive lights were wrapped around the trees in the atrium and black tables were set up for people to sit and mingle.  “Prim-and-Proper or Punk-rocker” was the evening’s theme and teens were asked to dress as one or the other, and the centerpieces on the tables, such as broken tea pots, tied into the theme. Teens could eat chips and brownies and other snack foods and sip “mocktails,” non-alcoholic drinks.


A centerpiece at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art's Teen Takeover Night

Two bands entertained throughout the evening and teens could dance on a cleared section of the atrium. A tea-party set up was arranged so that people could pose with props and have their picture taken, and there were tables set up for people to sit and make collages.  ARTlabs, interactive art stations where teens could showcase pictures of what inspired them, cut and paste collages, and move around phrases and pictures to make memes, were some of the kids favorite parts.

An ARTlab at MOCA where visitors can cut images out of magazines that are inspiring to them

An ARTlab at MOCA where visitors can cut images out of magazines that are inspiring to them

A small part of the museum’s galleries were opened and teens were welcomed to go in and explore.

Kailin Besharati, 13, attended her first Teen Takeover recently and enjoyed the mocktails and the ARTlabs.  Besharati had visited the museum before with her family and also completed a photography workshop at MOCA.

MOCA isn’t the only museum vying for more attention from teenage guests.  The Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk also has certain programs set up for teenagers.

Free glass-making demonstrations are open to everyone from Tuesday to Sunday, as well as a four-week long program in which teens and pre-teens can learn how to make glass.  The museum also works frequently with the Governor’s School for the Arts. This year, the museum helped the governor’s school put on a fashion show, based on the museum’s “Worn to be Wild” leather-jacket exhibit.  The museum also has a partnership with the Norfolk Boys & Girls Club, allowing them to sponsor students throughout the school year in glass making workshops.

Maegan Douglas, the public programs coordinator at the Chrysler, also said that often teens are attracted by specific exhibits, such as the former “The Art of Video Games” and “Charlotte’s Web.”


Picture of "Charlotte's Web" exhibit at Chrysler Museum of Art

Picture of "Charlotte's Web" exhibit at Chrysler Museum of Art

To visit the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art’s website, click here:

For more information on events offered at MOCA for teenagers, click here:

To visit The Chrysler Museum of Art’s website, click here: