In the past decade, the N.C. Museum of Art has greatly expanded its offerings for children. It now has everything from regular performances to drop-in programs for preschoolers.
But the state museum in west Raleigh wasn't serving all ages.
"There was a hole in teen programs where the camp programs and some of the things we did stopped at middle school," said Michelle Harrell, the museum's coordinator of teen and college programs. "We haven't really had a successful program for high school students."
That changed in the last couple of years when the museum received a major grant from Wells Fargo (originally Wachovia) to create programs for teenagers. The result has been the addition of online courses for high schoolers, along with other programs, including a major event set for May 19.
"We have not, at this museum, had an active teen program, but you look at teen events at [the Museum of Modern Art] and [The Metropolitan Museum of Art], we have the possibility of really building something here," Harrell tells me.
The museum took a year to study the needs and what teens would respond to before they launched any program. The results include the creation of online art courses that are part of the North Carolina Virtual Public School.
The state program allows high schoolers from across the state to take online courses. The museum's offerings include videography and the art of game design. Next fall, the museum's classes will include the art of persuasion, a kind of marketing course where students will learn about all forms of art that persuade. There also will be photography and fashion classes.
The classes typically involve opportunities for the students to come to the museum or participate online in a competition where their work becomes an exhibit at the museum.
"Themes carry over to face-to-face museum programs," she said.
A Teen Advisory Council is helping the museum plan a spring event called Art Scene on May 19. The group is made up of about 16 students who attend public, private and home schools. The museum will begin accepting applications for next year's council in May.
Harrell said the event will be an active, teen-centered event with a DJ and lots of activities. Other plans include offering three summer workshops designed for high schoolers, along with another for middle school students. Topics might include street art or comic books and animation. More on those to come.
The museum also has a teen art competition and other plans to boost its offerings for teens.
"It’s going to bring a new voice and energy to the museum and it’s going to be welcome," Harrell said. "I want teens to know that museums can be a very lively, fun place for young people."