Since 1993, the Walker has been offering programs specifically for teenagers. Throughout it’s 17 year history over 100 high school students have participated in it’s core program – the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC), an advisory group that partners with the Walker to create workshops, events, and interactions for teenagers.
As a staff member for over a decade, I had the opportunity to develop long term relationships with WACTAC members. One of the most rewarding parts of my job was witnessing participants develop socially, academically, and professionally. Over the years I had kept tabs of alumni anecdotally, but I didn’t have a formal way of tracking the participants. Several years back we decided to make a concerted effort to get the alumni together annually.
Free food and drinks are always a good way to get people to show up, so every year around the holidays “Uncle” Walker organizes a WACTAC Alumni Gathering. The event is an opportunity for past participants to reconnect with one another and staff. This year’s event was held at Common Roots Cafe and brought together over 30 participants spanning both Generations X and Y, ranging in age from 18 – 31. Participants exchanged memories of WACTAC romances gone sour, Don’t Sleep On It (a raucous 24 hour art event), and epic rubber band fights in the Teen Programs office. Although their careers vary widely (from Student to Electrician), the majority of participants continue to be actively involved in the arts as creators and/or audience members.
I realize that most educators and youth workers don’t get the see how their work effected others 10 years down the road, so I feel extremely fortunate to have a yearly opportunity to catch up with past WACTAC participants. In the end the party was a great success and I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering.