Art, Teens and Video at the ICA/Boston


Grabbing the attention of teenagers is one of the biggest challenges today facing museums and other cultural institutions seeking to boost participation in the arts. But the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA), supported by a Wallace Foundation grant, has hit on a promising approach that is bringing hundreds of young people into its galleries: ICA Teen Nights.

These quarterly “art happenings,” which can feature artist talks, workshops and other activities, are devoted to a selected theme and organized by a 12-member museum council on which only teenagers sit. The events typically attract 450 teens from around the Boston area.

One recent Teen Night, with the theme of breakdancing, also became the subject of a video journalism project by students at Madison Park High School in Boston’s Roxbury community. The event, called Reverb, was inspired by the work of artist William Cordova, whose pieces often make reference to street life. Cordova participated in a residency program with the museum’s teen arts council and is one of the three artists featured in an ICA exhibition called Street Level.

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston is one of 57 recipients of Wallace Excellence Awards, which are granted to exemplary arts organizations in selected cities as they work to develop and share useful knowledge about building participation in the arts.