Yesterday afternoon I was teaching printmaking to students at a nonsecure educational facility run by the Juvenile Justice Department, when one of the teens showed me what he was working on and said, “My work looks good, man. You should put it up in your museum.”
He meant it jokingly, the sort of statement teens make when they’re proud of themselves and overcome with a bit of adolescent bravado. But behind all of that was a clear yearning to be seen, for his hard work to be recognized. Today, his group visited the Museum for a guided tour, and I was able to hand them information on MoMA’s teen programs. I told them that if they wanted their art to hang here, a first step to take is signing up for one of our free classes. These students are being educated at their facility because, for whatever reason, mainstream education isn’t working for them. But I have utter faith that, high school dropout or honor roll student, rich or poor, attending teen programs at a museum will irrevocably alter their lives for the better. That isn’t hyperbole. It’s personal history.