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The Haunted Studio: A Whitney Halloween

NOV 5, 2012

Teen guests pose with masks created by Youth Insights Leaders, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Teen guests pose with masks created by Youth Insights Leaders, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

On Friday, October 26, teenagers from across New York City gathered in the Whitney’s Studio and Sculpture Court for an evening of contemporary art-themed Halloween events. The centerpiece of the evening was a performance, co-led by the Whitney’s teen Youth Insights Leaders and Biennial 2012 artist Tom Thayer, which turned the Whitney Studio into a contemporary “Haunted Studio.”

Youth Insights Leaders Hannah and Michelle talk to teens on a guided tour of the Wade Guyton: OS exhibition, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Youth Insights Leaders Hannah and Michelle talk to teens on a guided tour of the Wade Guyton: OS exhibition, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Over fifty of the city’s teenagers attended the event, which included food and face painting outside in the Whitney’s Sculpture Court. Teens were invited to have their fortunes read by a fortune teller, and to try their hand at Wade Guyton-style transfer prints at an art-making station. Before the night’s performance began, Youth Insights Leaders led a group of teens into the galleries for a tour of the Wade Guyton: OS exhibition. Leaders and teen guests exchanged information, questions, and theories about the challenging, often unsettling work, with its Halloween-appropriate imagery of flames or all-black canvases.

New York City teenagers participate in a “Bee Hive” performance in the Whitney Studio, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

New York City teenagers participate in a “Bee Hive” performance in the Whitney Studio, October 2012. Photograph by Correna Cohen

At six o’clock, the doors of the Studio opened, inviting teens to join in what Tom Thayer called a “Bee Hive”—a freewheeling interactive performance piece that incorporated collaborative theater techniques, audio, and on-the-spot sculpture making. Throughout the evening, guests filtered in and out of the Studio space, taking part in a work of art. Viewers became creators of the piece, helping to guide the actions and direction of the Bee Hive. Masks, created by the Youth Insights Leaders, lent anonymity and created a further sense of the haunted and surreal.

A masked Youth Insights Leader works on the Bee Hive. Photograph by Correna Cohen

A masked Youth Insights Leader works on the Bee Hive. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Later, Youth Insights Leader Michelle summed up the Haunted Studio event, calling it “raw and organic.” The highlight, she said, was the free-flowing nature of the piece, and the opportunities it offered for improvisation and experimentation. “We all knew what we wanted to do and not what we were supposed to do. To have everyone to listen that gut instinct without direction—that was the best part."

By Correna Cohen, Youth Insights Fellow