This spring, MoMA and MoMA PS1 joined forces to create a cross-museum educational program for teen alumni of previous MoMA courses. Called the Cross-Museum Collective, this 20-week course has brought the teens into a variety of exploratory situations, from behind-the-scenes tours to in-gallery events to two incredible artist collaborations with both Darren Bader and Rashaad Newsome. Rather than waste my breath trying to sum everything up, I invited one of the teens to put the experience into her own words. Read below to hear what Alya Albert, an 18-year-old homeschooled resident of Queens, has to say about this experiment in cross-museum learning.
—Calder Zwicky, Associate Educator of Teen and Community Programs
When Calder announced the new and experimental Cross-Museum Collective that MoMA Teens was offering for In the Making alumni, I was intrigued. I was having such a great experience in my first MoMA class that I knew I was ready to take the next step. Although my knowledge of what a “collective” meant was minimal, I knew from my past experiences in the class I took last summer—A Class With No Name—that MoMA would supply 20 weeks of intense and challenging educational awesomeness. So I applied, came in for an interview, was accepted, and prepared to join the CMC (as we now call it). But what I didn’t know was that my anticipation and expectations could not prepare me for what would be a truly life-changing experience.
On day one of the project, in my excitement, I showed up a half an hour early. I wasn’t alone. There were a mixture of new and familiar faces alike and it was evident that we were all pumped and ready to go. We were not disappointed, as we immediately jumped into the swing of things, exploring what we would be doing for the next 20 weeks!
What came next was an unreal tour of MoMA’s Department of Conservation led by the very knowledgeable Roger Griffith. It was so cool seeing a Jackson Pollock painting up close, lying there on a worktable. The week after that we made our first visit as a group to MoMA PS1, where we were greeted by Chris Lew and Matthew Evans. At this time we began to contemplate what modern and contemporary art meant, comparing MoMA and MoMA PS1 as two individual institutions. We also got our first glimpse of the artwork of Darren Bader.
After a few more weeks analyzing the difference between modern and contemporary art, along with an amazing behind-the-scenes tour of MoMA led by Director of Security LJ Hartman, we revisited Darren Bader’s work. All I can say when I think of Darren’s art is, “Whoa! My mind is blown.” There is a certain weirdness to it, but it’s so captivating that we all found ourselves smiling as we viewed his work, from the burritos to the cats. Just…whoa! And then we met him.
With Darren we were urged to look at art apart from the context of whatever museum it’s in, what floor it’s on, when it was made, and even who made it. We were asked to destroy all knowledge we had of a piece and just look at the art that was in front of us. We went on a “label free” tour of MoMA’s galleries during which looking at wall texts was 100% completely prohibited. We were then told to pick pieces from MoMA’s collection that spoke to us, and to create our own completely invented wall texts for them. We created a new history of art and eventually displayed it in the In The Making Teen Art Show, which is currently on view. The best part was watching the confused looks as people passed our wall of iconic but renamed images.
Sadly we said goodbye to Darren Bader, but quickly embarked on our journey with artist Rashaad Newsome. When Mark and Calder showed us his work we were instantly drawn to the undeniable swag of his pieces. Happy for some adventure we jumped on the subway and headed downtown to Rashaad’s Chelsea studio. This was, for many of us, the first time we were in an actual artist’s studio. I was so surprised to see how down to earth Rashaad and his assistants were. His artwork screamed this undeniable coolness that left me intimidated. However those feelings melted away as we sat in his ultra-inspiring studio space. Rashaad explained to us the interesting history of heraldry and how it represented the height of status. He told us how these ideas of heraldry, ornament, and status make their way into his art.
The next week Rashaad came to visit us at MoMA and we began to explore what status means to us. We covered our classroom wall with magazine clippings that represent rank and prestige to us as individuals. Once we had selected our favorite images, some of us began to physically arrange them into a collage, while others learned the basics of Photoshop. Week by week we were given more information as to what exactly we were making, until we found out we would be creating a video piece that would have a soundtrack produced by Rashaad. We continued to use Photoshop and After Affects to create a digital, animated, and totally awesome collage. However, the best part is that this aesthetically impressive piece holds so much meaning for us. It was a real pleasure working with Rashaad.
With just a few weeks left of the CMC course we are now working on one last project that I think will sum up the whole 20 weeks we will have spent at MoMA and MoMA PS1. During my time in the Cross-Museum Collective I have met people that I will never forget and have learned things that will stay with me forever. Above all, I now know that, wherever I go from here, art will be a part of my life. In fact it will be a driving force in whatever I choose to do. So what is an art collective? To me it’s a family that comes together to explore what beauty is and to somehow, humbly, try to recreate it.
Special thanks to Kathy Halbreich, Wendy Woon, Rashaad Newsome, Darren Bader, Christopher Lew, Matthew Evans, Roger Griffith, LJ Hartman, and everyone else at MoMA and MoMA PS1 who has helped make this collaboration a success. The “Cross-Museum of Art” is on view until May 25 as part of the MoMA Teen Art Show. Applications for the upcoming summer season of In the Making are available now at MoMA.org/momateens. And, of course, extra special thanks to Alya Albert!