Painting a brighter future

Is your teen an aspiring artist? If so, then area museums want to tap into his potential and offer a learning space for his talent to flourish. Students can drop in and sketch in the galleries of many of the city’s highly regarded art institutions. Many offer art courses with the guidance of a highly trained instructor, who is usually a practicing artist. This is a great way to expand a young artist’s practice, approach, and technique. Several large institutions have robust offerings for teens, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum. Each institution offers scheduled and drop-in classes as well as special perks for teens only.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art offers young people a chance to find inspiration and make friends in its teen programs. From gallery talks to art-making workshops, students are exposed to centuries of art history. Teens can also receive unlimited free admission by obtaining a “Teen Pass” (valid with a middle or high-school identification card).

The Museum of Modern Art offers free studio art classes to high-school students, and during the course, they create contemporary art and create their own exhibit. They will learn technique and put it into practice when creating their own pieces. Teens also have the opportunity to view and discuss artwork with peers while being guided by a museum professional. The course meets multiple times a week.

The Whitney Museum’s teen programming, “Youth Insights” (open to high schoolers), aims to have students, museum staff, and artists work collaboratively. There are a range of offerings and an opportunity for teens to expand their circle of friends and their perspective on art. Students that participate in the program are later eligible to apply for internships to work aside museum professionals, teaching others about the works exhibited. The internship requires a commitment of at least three hours per week. Other opportunities include serving on planning committees to host more teen events and also writing for the teen blog, known as the “Whit Blog.” If your teen is not ready to commit to a full semester, there are also free drop-in art-making sessions on Friday afternoons, from 4 to 6 pm. Teens can create works or bring in their works-in-progress. Each offering provides materials for the students to use.

It is also the perfect way to build a portfolio for middle schoolers that are considering a specialized arts high school or high schoolers looking to enter an arts program in college. Looking ahead to the college application process and exploring careers, teens that participate in courses can also utilize this time to explore careers in the arts by interacting with museum staff and teaching artists. Select programs offer teens the opportunity to develop professional skills through docent programs and internships. So, aside from providing a fun and safe space, participation in these programs could lead to resume-building experience. This is huge for college applications.

A number of museums throughout the five boroughs offer classes, workshops, and events specifically for teens. These offerings are typically grant-funded and free for the students with perks like snacks, activities, and even a MetroCard. Many classes are drop-ins (typically on Saturdays), but there are other classes with a set schedule in the after-school hours that require an application and can be a competitive admission process. By participating in a series of classes or workshops, the teens develop their art-making skills. These programs are not just offered by the large institutions, so aspiring artists (and their parents) should take a look at the offerings of each museum.

Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website:

For young artists

Here’s a list of area museums that offer programming for teens:

Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Pkwy. in Crown Heights,

Bronx Museum (1040 Grand Concourse in Grand Concourse,

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (2 E. 91st St. on the Upper East Side,

Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Ave. on the Upper East Side,

Metropolitan Museum (1000 Fifth Ave. on the Upper East Side,

Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St. in Midtown,

New York Historical Society (170 Central Park West on the Upper West Side,

Queens Museum (New York City Building, Meridan Road in Flushing Meadows Corona Park,

Staten Island Museum (1000 Richmond Terrace – Snug Harbor Campus, Building H in Randall Manor,

Whitney Museum (99 Gansevoort St. in the Meatpacking District,

The Jewish Museum offers art programs for teens.