More Than an Internship | Carol Ng-He

“Teens face many issues such as identity, family problems, and finding the right crowd… Their environment is chaotic and wild…” — Chicago Teen Museum website.

Teens are often like outsider artists – finding themselves outside of the mainstream cultural or social expectations.  Teens’ creativity is incredibly strong, their thinking bold, raw, wild, and unexpected, all of this much in common with outsider artists.

This summer I had the opportunity to experiment with a new project at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art where I work. Intuit Teen is a summer internship for high school juniors and seniors in Chicago in partnership with the Chicago Teen Museum (CTM) through the use of CTM Blog (as introduced in my previous post Blog It Out). In designing the program for Intuit, my goal was to create a cross-pollination experience of technology, learning and appreciation for outsider art.  I also wanted to create a chance for them to explore the museum profession more deeply.

This experimental program ran for just eight weeks from June to August of 2012. Through an application and screening process, two teen interns were selected and came to Intuit twice a week to develop educational materials and a guided tour for teen communities and young adults.  The teen interns also shared their internship experience on the CTM Blog that would be viewed by an international audience.

I had the good fortune to work with two amazing teens, Jennifer and Abraham, who were from different Chicago high schools. Working side-by-side with them, I saw the art in the museum through their eyes in a totally new and refreshing way. In their weekly blog posts, the teen interns took the initiative to find their favorites pieces and gave “virtual tours” which explored various exhibitions including the Henry Darger Room Collection. From observing their choices of the favorite artwork and reading their posts, I was delighted to find that the internship sparked a process of self-directed artistic exploration.

This short internship generated big outcomes that I am proud of. One success was a set of two dynamic, interactive, age-appropriated slide presentations on Outsider Art 101 produced by Jennifer and Abraham which introduces the concept of outsider art to young audiences. They spent the majority of their internship time on this project, pulling together a fun experiment with Prezi, an online zooming presentation program. Check out these slide shows here:

Outsider Art 101 for Kindergarten–Grade 5

Outsider Art 101 for Grades 6–12

Working with our teen interns this summer I realized that the Intuit Teen program was much more than an on-the-job training experience.  It was about collaboration, experimentation, trust building and having fun with some amazing youth!

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