One of the first teen programs to be developed in the country Walker Teens supports interactions with and connections to contemporary art and artists of our time. The program provides and co-creates platforms and resources with young people to safely ask complex questions, voice ideas and opinions, and explore critical and creative potential.
Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) History
For more than 20 years, the Walker Art Center has been a leader in innovative youth programming, providing cultural institutions around the world with a successful model for engaging teens and young adults. At the center of this model is the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC), a diverse group of 13 young artists and art enthusiasts who ensure that events for teens are part of the Walker’s overall program throughout the year. Meeting weekly after school, WACTAC members identify opportunities in the Walker’s exhibition schedule for teens to connect with contemporary art and artists. They also design their own creative projects to augment the institution’s offerings.
In the past, WACTAC has developed exhibitions and events to showcase teen artists, invited resident artists to give talks and lead classes, developed marketing materials and strategies, written and published original work for print and online, planned regional film festivals, and partnered with local groups to present programs throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. Teen programs bring a special vitality to the Walker, and these experiences have helped alumni attain scholarships and audiences for their work, secure curatorial and educational positions, and use their organizational and arts advocacy skills in their colleges and home communities.
A handful of WACTAC alumni have helped launch and run teen programs and teen arts councils at other museums, including the Bronx Museum of the Arts; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Beginning in 1990 with a three-phase study that provided the foundation for the program, the museum held informal, low-commitment activities to allow staff and researchers to get a feel for how the program might be organized. The Adolescent Think Tank was the core project, along with partnerships with several local schools and a highly visible interpretive artist-led initiative called The Listening Project
In 1994, the Education and Community Programs department officially started its teen program. Over the next few years, the department continued to provide workshops and added artist residencies and artist talks for young people. Staff also worked closely with Minneapolis South High School. In 1996, the program saw significant growth, particularly with the formation of WACTAC – the Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council. The number of annual events went from several to more than a dozen, many programmed by WACTAC. Added to the residencies and lectures were open houses, a zine, classes, and other projects.
The program expanded both in size and scope, with many events held away from the Walker. Onsite festivals were programmed to engage the community at large. At the museum, the students began to organize exhibitions and film festivals and to commission new work from artists.
Since the stabilization of the program the Walker has continued to explore ways to configure and refresh this core program. WACTAC works with new artists and staff members within the Walker on an annual basis and over the years has forged close working relationships with over 10 other youth arts organizations and groups within the Twin Cities.
Walker Teen Programs are made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services
Teens get free gallery admission every day, all year long, thanks to Wells Fargo.
Additional support is provided by the Surdna Foundation.