Teen Take Over

POSTED BY , ON June 07, 2013, Comments Off on Teen Take Over

The Teen Council, a group of 11 teens from all over Chicagoland, has met at the museum since October to explore new ways for youth to engage with the museum. The teens learned the various aspects involved in putting together an exhibition by imagining, curating, designing, and installing one themselves. Because the group felt like the life of a teenager centers on defining oneself, the council landed on an identity-focused themed exhibition entitled [insert YOU here]. For the exhibition, Teen Council members selected artwork that was created by teens around Chicago (and beyond) that represents various perspectives, subjects, media, and art-making techniques.


The exhibition installed in the Ryan Education Center is categorized into four sub-themes: origins, transitions, individuality, and interactions. The individuality panel reveals the tone of the exhibition: “As you begin to separate yourself from your origins, you start to discover who you are and what makes you different from the crowd. The clothes you wear, the books you read, and the places you go all make you ‘you’. In this way, you are setting the path for who you will become in the future.”

Across from the main installation, sticky notes expose the creative process for re-envisioning the museum to be more relevant to younger audiences. Scribbled on one note is an idea for “Walls/Floor you can write on.” Many notes include ideas allowing for more personalization, interaction with, and input into the museum experience.  The exhibition has a beautiful corresponding Tumblr, which is also available for browsing on an iPad in the exhibition.


All of the organizing and the exhibiting teens seemed full of pride for having accomplished an installation at the Art Institute of Chicago. Christina, a member of the teen council, said, “I am able to view one of my favorite museums in a whole different way. Being able to plan almost every aspect of the exhibition…from the text on the panels to the way the art is displayed, every piece of it is breathing with our own ideas, hopes, and dreams.”


As part of the exhibition, the Teen Council will host its first Teen event this Saturday, June 8th from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Ryan Education Center. The event is free and includes teen art, poetry, dance, fashion, art-making, music, and food. No reservations required.



1) The Art Institute of Chicago Teen Council
2) Teen Council brainstorming


Bookmark and Share | Permalink

Choose Your Own Adventure

POSTED BY , ON September 06, 2012, 5 COMMENTS

As a museum educator, one of my most important goals is to engage in dialogue with visitors about works of art. Along with each of my colleagues in the Museum Education department, I work toward this goal each day through gallery talks, seminars, and other programming.

Whenever you come to the museum, you’ll find a gallery talk led by myself or another member of our dedicated staff. We talk about topics ranging from the museum’s architecture to Japanese Prints to Surreal Spaniards. In fact, talks on all of those topics happen this month.

There are a number of points we consider when choosing talk topics, but after an energizing experience at the National Art Education Association convention this year, I’m inspired to look to all of you for feedback. Visitor-driven tours were one of the major threads throughout the conference, and they’re something I’ve always felt strongly about. Visitors on my gallery talks often make specific requests, and each time this happens I schedule a future talk on just that topic. For example, I received multiple requests for the Cornell Boxes earlier this year, and I promptly scheduled a gallery talk on that collection.

So, I’m putting this question out there: What do you want from a gallery talk? (Within reason, of course.)

What themes or artists or eras or cultures are you interested in learning more about? Which historical or contemporary issues would you like to explore through our collection and exhibitions?

Don’t hesitate to share your interests—either in the comments or directly with me at—we can’t wait to hear what you think!

—Kate Kelley, Museum Education Fellow


Bookmark and Share | Permalink

Making Your Own 3D Collection

POSTED BY , ON July 31, 2012, 4 COMMENTS

The way that most of us—even those of us who work at museums—most commonly experience art is through images, both on screens and in books or other printed material. Which, as I think we can all agree, is a LOT different than seeing a work of art in person. Being in the same room with something, not to mention seeing the colors, details, size, scale, etc. firsthand is incredibly different than looking at a mediated version of that artwork. And this might be even more true for sculptures. Experiencing a 3D work from just one angle definitely does not provide a full picture. But what if there was another way to experience sculptural art that, while definitely not being a substitute for the real thing, would help with questions regarding scale and angles? This past week we partnered with artists/makers Tom Burtonwood (below with model) and Mike Moceri to explore scanning and 3D printing of the Art Institute’s artworks and begin to address that very question.

Until recently, 3D printing would have required expensive unwieldy hardware, but quickly it’s becoming very accessible in the form of affordable 3D printers and build-it-yourself kits. Using Tom and Mike’s Makerbots, we set up a pop-up fabrication lab in the Art Institute’s own Ryan Education Center. These printers fit the ‘Do it Yourself’, or DIY, homemade aesthetic with exposed circuit boards and wires. Instead of printing with ink, a plastic thread melts through a nozzle that builds the 3D print layer by layer.

In order to print sculptures from the collection, we first had to capture 3D scans of the objects. Surprisingly, there are really easy tools that help us do just this. Heading into the galleries with iPads and a free iPad app called 123D Catch, we took pictures of sculptures, making sure to capture them from all directions. The software takes these photographs and stitches them into a 3D model which, after some processing, can be used by the Makerbot printers.  The photography process itself was amazingly engaging, as it required a closer look at the objects to think about the angles, important visual details, and textures.

As the scans were cleaned up and formatted for the printers, a School of the Art Institute summer camp of 7-  to 10-year-olds stopped by to watch the printing and it became clear how cool they thought the process was. The kids were enthralled as mini-versions of the Art Institute’s collection emerged from the Makerbots. They couldn’t wait to touch, share, and talk about the replicas.

3D printing and scanning of museum collections allows for an exciting new kind of access to sculptural artworks. 3D scans can be shared on websites, such as the one run by Makerbot called Thingiverse. A person can download and print his or her own gallery of artworks in preparation for a museum visit or an artist can mash up and remix scans to create something new. Tom mashed up two items from the Art Institute’s collection, the Architectural Brick with Ogre Mask, Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907) and the Mastiff (Tomb Figurine), Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 25-220), 2nd century into the Ogre Puppy (below). This ability to transform and make your own unique collection facilitates a creative response to the Art Institute’s artworks.

What do you think? Is this truly revolutionary access to our collection, or is it a passing fad?

Tags: ,

Bookmark and Share | Permalink

Teen Lab Teen Screen

POSTED BY , ON April 17, 2012, 1 COMMENTS

Ed. Note: The writers of this post, Kayla and Naomi, are two of the teens who participate in Teen Lab, the museum’s after school program run in partnership with After School Matters. During Teen Lab, 20 teens from all over the city meet at the Art Institute to learn about the museum, its collection, and museum careers, and to make artwork inspired by their experiences. Click here for more information about Teen Lab.

If you like The Nightmare Before Christmas or Disney or supporting young artists (or maybe all three?), then we have an event for you. During this semester’s Teen Lab, a group of students (including yours truly) focused on stop-motion animation, which is animating objects and drawing using a series of photos. We learned about a variety of techniques like making flipbooks, moving objects around, and using cut paper. We would take pictures during the process and then animate them later on a computer.

For inspiration, we used artworks from the galleries in the Art Institute. In one mini project, we used photos of artworks that we then cut into pieces and rearranged while taking pictures of each little movement.

To animate, we also worked with MacBooks and used the application iMovie to set the timing right. It took a lot of time just to complete just one mini project. In total, we spent three days a week for ten weeks here in the Art Institute for the program. Not to mention the seemingly countless hours spent taking pictures for these animation projects!

To show off our work, Teen Lab will be having a public screening on Thursday, April19th from 4:30 to 6:30pm. It will be held in the Ryan Education Center in our home at Studio B. There will be snacks served and you’ll get your own chance to learn how to animate like we did. So don’t be shy and come check us out on Thursday…we know you want to!

—Kayla Henderson and Naomi Gonzalez, Teen Lab participants

Tags: ,

Bookmark and Share | Permalink

Is There an App for that Brushstroke?

POSTED BY , ON April 16, 2012, 5 COMMENTS

In deference to the safety of the museum’s collection, painting in the Art Institute has traditionally been restricted to a limited number of students and professionals. But thanks to creative uses of mobile devices, the museum has been able to extend that artistic experience to a wider audience without spilling a drop of paint. In a recent Teen Studio Workshop on Experimental Painting, museum education staff—using an iPad app that simulates painting techniques—provided teens with a digital canvas and virtual brushes and paints.  Inspired by artworks like Gerhard Richter’s Ice (1-4) shown below, participants “squeezed” virtual paint onto their simulated canvases, blended and smudged colors with a palette knife, and built up layers and textures, all through touching or dragging their fingers over iPad screens.


Museum lecturers also use iPads as virtual portfolios to show images that supplement understanding of artworks discussed on public gallery talks. Digital images on the iPads permit the audience to view sculpture from different angles, and to explore related works from the collection not on display, or comparative artworks from other museums or collections. The speaker below, for instance, shows the image of an ancient coffin to help convey the original purpose of the Egyptian funerary objects in the cases behind him. Lecturers use them to zoom in on minute details, some not detectable to the naked eye, and the highly visible backlit screen gives iPads an advantage over their paper analogues.

Lecturers have even begun to incorporate audio and video into their tours. During a gallery talk, for example, visitors might listen to the atonal music of Arnold Schoenberg and compare it to the abstract compositions of Vasily Kandinsky; or they might compare movement, rhythm, mood, or repetition in an artwork to that found in an example of jazz or classical music. A lecturer might invite visitors to explore Richmond Barthé’s bronze sculpture The Boxer and watch an archival video showing the artists process and sculptural techniques in his studio. Most recently, children were introduced to the illustration exhibition Animals around the World: Picture Books by Steve Jenkins in the Ryan Education Center both literally and virtually. First, students looked closely at the dynamic paper collages combined with amazing facts about inhabitants of the animal kingdom. Then an educator showed videos on an iPad of the animals in their habitats, enabling some of our youngest audiences to see examples of where an artist drew inspiration for his work.

Mobile technology is increasingly demonstrating its potential to connect museum audiences of all ages with the artists and their works and to provide opportunities for creative experiences through dynamic interaction with the collection. Stay tuned for more ways in which the Art Institute of Chicago will engage 21st century visitors with mobile and touch-screen technology, bringing them closer to the collection in new and exciting ways.

—Carolina K., Education Technology Manager, Digital Information and Access

Tags: ,

Bookmark and Share | Permalink