This post is part of our “Broadening and Diversifying the Leadership Pipeline” blog salon for National Arts in Education Week 2018.
The High Museum of Art has been on a journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion in recent years. With the diversification of our board and staff, the inclusion of programs for students with cognitive and physical disabilities, boosting our family programming, and more, the Museum has taken a concerted effort to truly reflect the community it serves. One of these areas is in our teen programming.
In 2016, we applied for a contract with the Kennedy Center VSA to develop programming for students on the autism spectrum. This program focused on the Tapestry Public Charter School, which serves 50% students on the spectrum and 50% students who are neurotypical. In the first year of our partnership with Tapestry, we worked with students in grades 6 through 10. Every year, the school has grown. We are currently in our third year of partnering with the school and they have expanded to 12th grade. The students range in age from 12 to 18. In this program, we work closely with the students, teachers, and administrators to develop tours and workshops that are interactive, sensory-friendly, and responsive to the needs of all learners.
The students provide us invaluable feedback on how we can improve our programming. Every year, we take this feedback to alter the next year’s program. Through the Kennedy Center VSA contract, we have been able to expand our programming to work with students involved in the Center for the Visually Impaired, as well as other schools and non-profit organizations that are for students with cognitive and physical disabilities.
The High Museum also has a program called Teen Team that began in 2011 with the idea of engaging Atlanta teens. To date, roughly 120 teens have come through the program and represent a wide range of students from public, private, charter schools. Every year, the High employs a group of 15 to 20 rising juniors and seniors who create and host public programs at the Museum, including our teen-only Teen Night, which will see around 1,000 teens, and our monthly free admission day, Second Sundays. The Teen Team program is a paid, year-round commitment, and the teens are considered Museum employees. They explore the Museum’s collection and special exhibitions, museum staff, local artists, and experience museum careers through shadowing employees and contributing to meetings. In a recent Americans for the Arts blog post, two Teen Team members reflect on the power of performance art within a larger, global context.
The High believes that through diverse programming for teens, we are able to shift the narrative of equity and inclusivity within cultural institutions.