Yayoi Kusama and NYC Teens at the Whitney
Aug 7, 2014

On July 28, New York City teens were invited to the Whitney for an afternoon of art-making, edible-dot-creating, and tours of the exhibition Yayoi Kusama led by current YI participants, July 2012. Photograph by Berry Stein 

Canvases, cookies, and clothing–oh my! On Saturday July 28, the Whitney hosted Kusama Mania!, a summer event for New York City teens that included art making, tours of Yayoi Kusama, a retrospective of the artist’s work currently on view at the museum, and lots of sugar cookie–er, edible Kusama-inspired dots!

Teen visitors, who had free access to the Museum and all of the day’s activities, began with a tour of the exhibition led by four teens currently participating in the Youth Insights Summer Intensive Program. Michelle, Hannah, Elizabeth and Wiley talked to visiting NYC high school students about Kusama’s watercolors, Infinity Net paintings, Accumulation sculptures, and recent series of brightly-colored and patterned canvases before sending them down to the Whitney Studio.

  • student giving a talk to other about artwork

    YI Summer Intensive participant (and former YI Artist) Elizabeth introduces teen viewers to Yayoi Kusama's Accumulation sculptures. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • students talk in gallery

    Wiley, also a current Summer YI Teen (and former YI Writer) ends the tour with information on Kusama's recent vibrantly colored paintings. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • colorful canvases with student artwork

    Teens were invited to experiment with acrylic paint on brightly colored canvas or watercolor and ink on paper. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • students painting at a table

    Teens work with a variety of colors, brushes, and techniques at the acrylic paint table. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • teen putting crafts on clothing

    Teens manipulate and transform articles of clothing into works of art with a variety of everyday materials. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • buttons being affixed to canvas

    Some canvases made the transition from the painting table to the hot-glue-gun table with ease. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • plastic containers full of food coloring

    Outside the Whitney Studio, a table is set with all the ingredients to transform sugar cookies into edible visual art. Photograph by Berry Stein

  • cupcake topped with decorations

    Kusama inspired all of us that day! Photograph by Berry Stein

In the studio, teens were greeted with three art-making stations inspired by the works they had just seen: a watercolor and ink table, a table filled with brightly colored canvases and acrylic paints, and a third table chock full of “stuff” and loaded with glue guns. Next to this table, a bin of T-shirts and other clothing offered teens the chance to create their own wearable art in the style of Kusama’s Accumulation sculptures. Just outside the studio in the Whitney’s Sculpture Court, a cookie-decorating table turned Kusama’s dots obsession into sugary, edible fun for all ages.

As the event drew to a close, participants wandered back to the studio to put the finishing touches on their accumulation clothing or pick up drying canvases. Dozens of teens attended the event and created some amazing art–we hope to see them again before long for drop-in teen events taking place during the school year or as after-school participants in Youth Insights!

By Correna Cohen, Youth Programs Intern