Every year, thousands of teenagers participate in programs at their local art museums. But do any of them remember their time at museum events later in life? A new report suggests that the answer is yes—and finds that alumni of arts-based museum programs credit them with changing the course of their lives, even years after the fact.
They recruited over 300 former participants of four programs for teens that have been in existence since the 1990s. Alumni, whose current ages range from 18 to 36, were given a questionnaire to find out how they viewed their participation years after the fact.
THE PROGRAM: ROOM TO RISE
Room to Rise is the result of a multi-year collaboration between the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, with support from a National Leadership Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. Each of the participating museums is home to a nationally recognized teen program that has operated continuously since the 1990s. These programs bring highly diverse urban youth together to work collaboratively with museum staff and artists, developing vibrant activities and events to engage teen audiences, from tours and exhibitions to performances and fashion shows. Lead Research Advisor Mary Ellen Munley and a network of critical friends and expert advisors guided this practitioner-driven research, which incorporates innovative arts-based methods. The study offers a detailed look at the lasting impact of these programs, and highlights key engagement strategies for educators.
Program participants reported that their experiences as teens in museums were transformational, shaping their adult lives in significant ways. This study traces a relationship between high impact engagement strategies, short-term outcomes, and long-lasting impacts for alumni, including:
-Personal identity and self-knowledge
-Relationship to museums and culture
-Expanded career horizons
-A worldview grounded in art
-Community engagement and influence
The project team documented its process carefully in this supplement to Room to Rise, which presents detailed descriptions of study design decisions, instrument development, and data analysis procedures.