Aging with Art: A Conversation of Education and Youth

Involvement in the arts is a life changing experience. This is especially true for individuals who become involved in the creation and analysis of art at a young age. A recent Smithsonian article discusses how youth who were involved in art related museum programs are more culturally aware, have a deeper sense of personal identity, and are more involved in their communities as adults. Over 300 people who participated in four different museum programs were surveyed about the impact of their experience years later. A majority of participants noted that their involvement in these programs was one the most important experiences of their lives and 75 percent rated the program as more influential than community, family, or school. UMOCA offers several opportunities for children and youth to become involved with the arts and have a profound experience of their own. Read about the impact of the Whitney art programs here.



Family Art Saturday

Family Art Saturday is the longest running education program at UMOCA. Every second Saturday of the month from 2-4 pm families can come to the museum and participate in creating a work of art. Rather than a day care where parents drop off their kids and pick them up later, parents and children collaborate on these projects and share an equal part in the creative process. This allows for a channel of communication to be established between parent and child and can encourage stronger relationships. Jared Steffensen, the curator of public engagement for UMOCA, described how Family Art Saturday is a way for families to build unity “when you see a child and a parent walking out of the museum continuing to talk about the artwork they have made together, I think that is a way to quantify the success of this program.” Creating these works allow parents and children to understand each other better in a new context. It also provides children with an opportunity to explore their personal creativity.


SENSE/ABILITY and Stroller Tours

UMOCA strives to be accessible to all art lovers in the community. The Sense/Ability tours invite families with special needs children to enjoy the artwork in a low stress and quiet environment. To maintain a tranquil atmosphere, these tours are limited to 15 families at a time. Stroller tours offer parents and caregivers with young children the chance to see the exhibits before the museum opens. During this time children are encouraged to interact with the artworks tactically through examples of materials used in the different works. Both of these programs allow families to enjoy art in an environment without feeling the social pressure of guiding their children through large, noisy crowds.



The Out Loud Program

With greater awareness of the LGBTQ+ community on the rise, UMOCA shows our support through the Out Loud program. Out Loud includes several sessions that allow ten teenagers to explore their personal identity and sexuality. Many of these youth feel unsupported in their homes and at school. One participant stated “being a youth is something that is frowned upon. Adults don’t normally take you seriously. Being a youth AND being queer is seen as even worse. You don’t have a voice at all. But what we have to say matters!” Out Loud gives participating youth an opportunity to freely express who they are without having to deal with judgment and stigma. It offers a safe, supportive environment for self-exploration and discovery.


Art Truck

Not only does UMOCA strive to make visiting the museum an excellent experience, we also create opportunities for art appreciation in other locations. Steffensen states that “a main purpose of our education programs in the museum is to outreach to communities who wouldn’t otherwise have access to our art.” Travelling to elementary schools all over the state, the art truck helps young students from many parts of Utah gain an understanding for and appreciation of contemporary art as well as firsthand experience in the creation process.


Where We are Going

We at UMOCA have plans to continue making art accessible to all facets of the community. Steffensen described plans to begin a program to help visually impaired patrons to enjoy the art through “verbal tours,” where artwork would be described to the patron by a volunteer. Along with these verbal tours, UMOCA will continue to improve our existing programs to help important conversations happen and a sense of community to grow through an appreciation of contemporary art. UMOCA is constantly innovating new ways to create life-changing experiences for adults children and adolescents. Youth involved in these programs can gain a deeper sense of culture and personal identity that will help them become a great strength for our community.