Creating spaces for free, hands-on art experiences is a cornerstone of the educational and artistic philosophies guiding our work within Teen and Community Partnerships here at MoMA. For far too many young people living in NYC, the idea of pursuing (or even exploring) a career in the arts can seem frivolous, intimidating, and, ultimately, unattainable. Add the high cost of undergraduate and graduate education to these gaps in basic accessibility and the difficulties young artists face are compounded exponentially. With these ideas in mind, this season saw MoMA Teens working with the staff and community of artists from Bruce High Quality Foundation University, or “New York’s freest art school,” as they aptly describe themselves. Set up as an introductory “art school for people who hate school,” the 10-week program they developed has taken the participating teens through the strange, scary, and oftentimes outlandish world of a college-level fine arts degree, as seen through the wonderfully distorted BHQFU lens. Below Andrea and Sean, our two BHQFU collaborators, share their experiences here so far.
—Calder Zwicky, Assistant Director for Teen and Community Partnerships, MoMA
For the past season, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University has had the pleasure of working with 25 incredibly sharp teenagers from across the five boroughs of New York City. In a world that has robbed many of them and their peers of a stable, prosperous future, we’re learning together about the social and political power of art.
And they’re all about it.
Each week, we invited a Bruce family member to lead a guest workshop outlining their studio working methods, political motivations, and cultural influences. This resulted in a crash course of sorts, a hyper-accelerated BFA experience that not only showed how art is made, but why art is made and for whom. The best part has been, our students got to experience all of this for free, thanks to this incredible program, MoMA’s In the Making teen art courses. At the end of each class, participants earned a merit badge celebrating the techniques and concepts they’d learned to add to their BHQFU camo vests. We’re earning them, too, and we’ll all have pretty killer art education maps on our backs at the exhibition opening on April 15.
We learned about Institutional Critique + Critical Pedagogy through a brief history of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and BHQFU that culminated in a group “sculpture tackle” of Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE work located a few blocks from MoMA. Rapper and visual artist James Allister Sprang (AKA GAZR), himself an alumnus of the MoMA Teens Apprentice Educator program, showed us the connection between Performance Art + Pop Art, challenging us to incorporate personal narrative and critiques of popular culture into our art. Queens-based sculptor Anne Wu encouraged us to see the human touch evident everywhere in the urban environment of New York, and how to translate sketches of the world around us into three-dimensional sculptural objects. Eamon Monaghan shared the secrets of his DIY Video + Set Design process as we learned how to construct miniature film sets and how to splice ourselves into them using the green-screen method. Continuing that DIY theme, the artist collective Packet Biweekly discussed the political value of Artist Books + Self-Publishing, working with us to knock out a brand new collaborative artist book in a single class session. We deconstructed, figuratively and literally, imagery from mass media, reconfiguring those images to reflect our individual perspectives through a Collage + Media Literacy workshop with artist Ariel Jackson. And we tapped into the other side with Orlando Estrada, whose Psychic Intuition + Alchemy class taught us relief mold sculpture techniques hinged on improvisation and drawing exercises encouraging us to find a sixth sense.
Consistently, our students have expressed their discontent with the way things are in the world—justifiably so! It’s easy to get jaded, right? But the thing is: none of them are jaded. They’re fired up and they’re making plans. Collectively and individually, they’re beyond driven. They are demanding an alternative future. BHQFU is equally fired up as we see in action the inarguable value of accessible art education. Our students are unafraid of speaking truth to power, of dismantling structures designed to marginalize them. Each of them is in possession of a truly unique voice and perspective, and they’ve learned the skills to amplify that voice through creating art.
Join us on April 15 for the opening of the In the Making: Spring 2016 Teen Art Show. We’re so fortunate to have met the next generation of merry pranksters and political dissidents. We can’t wait to show you what each of them can do.