Thesis Update: Teens and After-School Art Programs

Hi there! My name is Stefanie, and I’m a grad student in the Art Education department at CCNY. Outside of school, I’m a freelance educator at the Whitney Museum, a program coordinator for City Art Lab (a free after-school program for teens at CCNY), and an artist. I’m also a cat mom, band member, Mets fan, and bicycle rider.

 

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Posing with some recent drawings at our Art Ed Grad Student Art Show last October

 

Towards the end of a conversation last semester with a local high school art class, the teenagers were asked about barriers to their involvement with the arts, and one of the boys told us that he’s always felt uncomfortable in museums. We didn’t have time to delve deeply into the topic, and my interest was piqued. Is this a common feeling? What might contribute to it? Are museums aware of the problem? I decided this could be a worthwhile focus for my thesis research. I’ve always loved working with teenagers, and I hope to work in museum and community-based education after graduation. Learning everything I could about the reasons why a high schooler might not get involved with the arts felt important.

 

As the semester has progressed, my topic has widened a bit; my research is now focused on what experiences teenagers have when participating in art-making programs at NYC art museums vs. other out-of-school art programs, and what motivates them to choose one type of program over another. I’ll be conducting an exploratory study, which means I’m going to ask some broad questions to try to establish directions for future research, rather than starting off with a hypothesis or trying to prove a theory. Through surveys and focus groups, I hope to have some interesting conversations with teen artists and get some insights into their decision-making processes.

 

Much existing research on museum education discusses partnerships between museums and schools, but there is less to find about after-school programs; there is even less that specifically focuses on adolescents. Many studies also look at the influence of arts participation on other academic skillsets, rather than asking questions about what the experience of art-making is actually like. I’m excited to help fill this gap. I think my research will be useful for museum educators seeking to appeal to increasingly diverse groups of visitors, as well as for other art educators who would like to know more about the motivation and experiences of teens who are involved with the arts outside of school.

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