Back to main story

When the Walker Art Center convened the first Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) in 1996 as a way to attract area youth to the museum, it decided to make its resources available to them - and then get out of the way.

Clearly, it's an approach that has worked. With an annual budget of $30,000 to create and market programs of interest to its peers, the WACTAC has increased attendance of young people by 29 percent. It has also provided its members with many creative opportunities, as well as a place to learn about how to work with each other, the museum and the community.

A rotating group of 12 students from high schools throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the WACTAC meets weekly at the Walker to talk about art, life and how to make the most of all the museum has afforded them. As older members leave, the teens choose new members from an increasing number of applicants, striving to maintain diversity within race, ethnicity, interests, skills, age, and schools, as well as the WACTAC's identity as an independent, cutting-edge entity.

"As the WACTAC becomes an institution in its own right, the public's perception keeps trying to shift it back to the Walker and make it more mainstream," said former WACTAC member Danny Brink-Washington. "But we've always operated independently."

Hot Art Injection (May Cause Side Effects) Opening: May 1999

Members of the Walker staff support that independence by working closely with the teens to put into action their ideas for artist-in-residence exhibitions, workshops and talks, film and video shows, dance, spoken word and multi-media performances.

"If the teens decide to do a film project, they do the research, write the calendar copy and program notes and present the program to the audience the night of the screening," explained Dean Otto, Film & Video program manager. "My job is to help them set realistic expectations about what they can accomplish and walk them through the budget, the process of finding and shipping archival films and dealing with distributors."

The WACTAC promotes its programs in a variety of ways, from writing press releases and creating such marketing materials as radio announcements, flyers, stickers and posters. Its primary publicity tool is Fig.12, a quarterly mini-magazine that is distributed to high schools and community groups and serves as a vehicle for the teens to promote contemporary art and artists through their original writing and artwork. Fig.12 also allows teens the opportunity to work with museum staff and editorial consultants to learn about the entire publication process.

"I was uncertain of my role on the WACTAC. Writing about events at the Walker for Fig.12 helped me find my place," said Leslie Dolland, who was a WACTAC member for three years. "I never had so much to say about something that was published and distributed all around the city."

In addition to Fig.12 and dozens of programs, the WACTAC has also produced three exhibitions of art by area teenagers. The shows, Hot Art Injection, attract more than 1,000 submissions and draw hundreds of supporters to its openings.

Despite the enormous creative freedom the teens have, their efforts have not been without growing pains.

"There have been times when the kids wanted to use images or language that, although incredibly clever, wouldn't be acceptable in schools, which is where our target audience is," explained Christi Atkinson, assistant director, Teen Programs. "They learned that, while we give them as much freedom as possible, both they and the Walker have to be happy with the product, that this is a collaboration."

A Selected List of Teen Programs

Artist Residency: Spencer Nakasako, filmmaker
Artist Residency: Wendy Clark, filmmaker
Interpretive Program: Hannah Hoch Girl Zine
Film/Video Screening: Jr. Home Girls
Film Video Screening: Fresh Visions
Artist Talk: Rebecca Walker, writer
Artist Talk: Jean Pierre Gorin, filmmaker

Interpretive Program: Hannah Hoch Girl Zine Project
Interpretive Program: Writing Home
Interpretive Program: Video History and the Art of Diana Thater
Demonstration and Performance @ First Avenue: Sarah Skaggs
Artist Workshop: Root Wy'mn, theater artists
Artist Workshop: Rhonda Leiberman, visual artist and critic
Artist Talk: Mark Luyten, visual artist
Artist Talk and Spoken Word Performance: Michael Franti, musician and poet
Artist Talk: Tracie Morris, poet
Artist Talk: Bettina Aptheker, writer and activist
Film Screening: Arthur Dong, filmmaker
Performance: Danny Hoch, performance artist
Exhibition and Performance: Hot Art Injection, teen art show

Film and Music Series: Summer Movies and Music
Student Open House
Artist Residency: Rirkrit Tiranvanija, visual artist
Artist Residency: Lorna Simpson, visual artist
Artist Residency: Barry McGee, visual artist
Class: World Wide Web with Louis Mazza, media artist
Computer Drop-In Program: Studio 3D with Science Museum of Minnesota
Interpretive Program: Joseph Beuys Tree Planting Project
Graffiti Project with Franconia Sculpture Park & No Name Exhibitions
Artist Talk: Bill T. Jones, choreographer and dancer
Artist Talk and Screening: Sadie Benning, filmmaker
Artist Talk and WACTAC Workshop: Sue Coe, visual artist
Artist Talk: Guerilla Girls, artists and activists
Artist Talk: Rita Reed, photographer
Artist Project: commissioned Barry McGee stickers

Artist Residency: Glenn Ligon, visual artist
Interpretive Program: Fact/Fiction Spoken Word Class and Performance with e.g. bailey, poet and musician
Web Class: Cyberchicas with Robin Marks, media artist
Graffiti Project with Franconia Sculpture Park & No Name Exhibitions
Film/Video Screening: Jr. Home Girls
Artist Talk: Bust Girls, Debbie Stoller and Marcelle Karp, writers
Gallery Tour: Robert Gober, visual artist
Exhibition and Performance: Hot Art Injection - May Cause Side Effects, teen art show

Artist Residency: Craig Baldwin, filmmaker
Artist Residency: Bill T. Jones, choreographer and dancer
Artist Residency: Nari Ward, visual artist
Artist Residency: Joanna Haigood, choreographer and dancer
Film/Video Screening: Jr. Home Girls
Artist Talk: Craig Baldwin, filmmaker
Artist Talk: Larry Harvey, Burning Man founder
Artist Talk: Peter Bagge, comic book artist
Artist Talk: Shepard Fairey, visual artist
Publication: Teen AnthologyReadings: Teen Anthology
Artist Workshop: Tim Rollins, visual artist
Artist Residency: Spencer Nakasako, filmmaker
Artist Residency: Yoko, Yoko, Yoko, with Lisa D'Amour, performer
Screening and Artist Talk: Spencer Nakasako
Exhibition and Performance: Hot Art Injection III, teen art show
Performance: Hip Hop with Juxtaposition Arts
Artist Workshop: Eyenga Bokamba, poet and performer
Artist Workshop: Yoji Senna, performer
Artist Workshop: Roxane Wallace, dancer