Every year, we bring hundreds of NYC teens through our studio doors to take part in dozens of free hands-on art-making programs. From In the Making to the MoMA + MoMA PS1 Cross-Museum Collective to our recently created Digital Advisory Board, we are constantly looking to find new ways of engaging young audiences and connecting them more deeply with the worlds of modern and contemporary art. But how can we translate these physical, MoMA-based experiences into a vibrant, digital presence? How do we capture the experimental messiness of, say, last season’s Clubs, Gangs, and Secret Societies course, and translate that into something that still makes sense online?
When we sat down last year to rethink the Museum’s website for teens, we knew that there were literally dozens of different ways to approach the project. We wanted to create something that could be a hub of information and content, like the Red Studio site we created a few years back, but we also wanted it to be a teen-directed social space, that could respond quickly to new events that pop up on a daily basis, like our popular MoMA Teens Facebook page. It also needed to have the ability to hold concrete information like course descriptions and online applications, like the official MoMA.org MoMA Teens page does. And then of course we wanted it to be just plain cool, like the teen-created (and Webby Award-winning) PopArt site. As the saying goes, at a certain point it probably would have been easier to just make a list of what we DIDN’T want the site to do.
Enter Arch & Loop, a New York–based design firm that works in both print and interactive media. After meeting with them the first time, it was clear that they understood us—both our specific digital needs, as well as the overall vibe that we were going for. We knew from the Department of Education’s current experiences using Tumblr (see our great MoMA Talks Tumblr site for an example) that we might want to explore it as an option. Arch & Loop advocated for using a Tumblr platform as the backbone of the site (thus allowing for easy blogging and increased sociability), and they also suggested adding onto a pre-existing layout to expand our options and to create space for a large archive of past MoMA Teen programs and to allow the site to connect to our online applications for easier use. In a sense, we tried to create a one-stop shop for all things MoMA Teens and the result is a completely unique hybrid of a traditional website and a Tumblr page. As Lydia Turner, Arch & Loop’s creative director, puts it: “One of the main challenges was to create a fun and easy way to browse information and galleries related to all the different courses MoMA offers, while preserving Tumblr’s more linear, chronological way of showing content and allowing people to follow and reblog it. Luckily Tumblr is a really flexible platform so we were able to have our cake and eat it too. We were excited to translate the creative and experimental nature of the MoMA Teens program into a vivid new experience, and to do it in an environment like Tumblr, where many teens are already active and feel at home.”
Once Arch & Loop had finalized all of the design elements (which included our BLOG, the GALLERY of past programs, the FREE ART COURSES section highlighting upcoming offerings for teens, and the APPLY section, which houses our online applications) we brought in our teens to add their own unique spin on everything. Participants from last season’s In the Making courses patiently posed during a photo shoot at the Museum, and were turned into the incredible animated GIFs that are featured on the site. And rather than having us give the standard “MoMA-approved” course descriptions, we brought in Alya Albert from last year’s Cross-Museum Collective and Digital Advisory Board (and a recently-enrolled English and creative writing student at Pratt Institute!) to give us her own weird take on the MoMA Teen offerings. Her description of our fall 2011 A Class With No Name course: “MoMA likes to conduct experiments. Sometimes they put 21 teens in a classroom, tell us to create our own course, give us $1000, and then watch silently. Obviously we made chocolate facial features and held a philosophical dinner party. Obviously.” Obviously, way better than anything we ever could have written Alya…
Starting today, the site will be live at Teens.MoMA.org. Please join us there to share posts, like our images, comment on what we’re doing, and spread the word about the new online home for MoMA Teen Programs. We’ll be working out the bugs over the next few weeks, tweaking the page in response to whatever issues pop up, and seeking out a new community of young artists with which to share our work. In a few months, we’ll even be adding a completely unique mobile design as well, which will work on smart phones and touch screen devices.
Special Thanks to everyone at MoMA who assisted with making this project a reality: Deborah Howes, Allegra D’Aprile-Smith, Valerie Caesar, Samuel Sherman, Luke Williams, Francis Estrada, Sheetal Prajapati, James Heck, Francesca Rosenberg, Wendy Woon, and all of the teens who posed for pictures, gave feedback, and shared their inimitable ideas. Extra special thanks to the team at Arch & Loop: Lydia Turner, Martin Zagorsek, Francesca Campanella, and Sean Conway.