Youth Insights looks to the future with a long-term research project
Oct 28, 2011

Graffiti about Whitney Teens on a rolldown gate on the street.

Youth Insights contribute to a collaborative mural celebrating the Whitney’s new building project, 2011. Photograph by Sean Carroll

The Whitney's Education Department is thrilled to announce a new national research initiative to explore the long-term impact of teen programs in modern and contemporary art museums, including its award-winning Youth Insights program. With a generous National Leadership Grant awarded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Whitney will lead a three-year project in collaboration with the Walker Art Center, the Contemporary Art Museum Houston (CAMH), and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (LA MOCA). All four institutions offer teen programs that have been in existence for more than a decade and provide a diverse group of participants the opportunity to learn about art, go behind the scenes at each institution, and take on leadership roles within the museum and in their community. 

Students sit on the gallery floor to talk about art from the museum collection.

Youth Insights teens meet weekly at the Museum to discuss artworks such as Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning (1930) and formulate strategies for outreach to other teens, 2011. Photograph by Berry Stein

For years, we have witnessed the amazing things that can happen when teens get involved at museums— these programs can broaden their perspectives and sense of self, introduce them to new career opportunities, and spark a deep connection to the arts. However, we realized that despite the transformational impacts we had observed again and again during our programs, we had never really asked what happens to our teens down the road. How do those short-term impacts manifest themselves in the longer-term in our participants’ lives? With this study, we will now undertake an in-depth inquiry, building the capacity of arts education practitioners to become rigorous researchers, so that we can understand the real impact of the experiences we provide.
We look forward to kicking off this partnership and research project with a Practitioner-Researcher Institute hosted at the Whitney in early December 2011, which will bring together representatives from each of the participating museums, as well as our Research Partner, Mary Ellen Munley of MEM & Associates. Over the course of the next three years, the Whitney, the Walker, LA MOCA, and CAMH will collaborate closely with Mary Ellen to develop a shared approach to evaluating the long-term impact of our programs, with the goal of ultimately making a lasting contribution to the museum field.