Growing Through Art: My Teen Lab Experience


Maximo Bunay '20, News Editor/Features

On December 14th, I was one of 18 students in the teen intern program, Teen Lab, to present their final showcase to the public and staff at the Art Institute of Chicago. Many high school teens from diverse backgrounds around the city got the chance to share their work and make connections with people in the art field. Friends, family, and colleagues also got to enjoy the beautiful artwork and company of one another that evening.

The program took place during the fall semester and was offered through the Art Institute of Chicago by After School Matters on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The student interns in the program practiced and learned new types of art using different types of media and methods such as weaving, collage, painting, experimental watercolor, sculpture, and composed poetry and hip hop. We talked about the theme of “community” and our own communities as well as our community’s history and the similarities and differences of the places we live in. We also talked about the history of the Art Institute and how we can decolonize and transform its power structures.

Using these discussions, the teens in the program were able to create their own tours for youth groups, families, and organizations that visited. During visits from other groups of youth, we got a chance to network, create art, visit museum galleries, and make friends. We also visited culturally black and brown art institutions during field trips including the South Side Community Arts Center and YolloLab in Pilsen.

Being a part of Teen Lab has been one of the best experiences of my life and everyone who was involved in the program benefited from it as well – as artists and people. Teen Lab was a place where we could share our achievements, insecurities, thoughts, questions, and simply be ourselves in a safe and open environment. Many of us grew as people through our discussions of our neighborhoods and gentrification, while we also grew as artists by learning, practicing, and criticizing new forms of art making we learned.

I will take all of the great lessons and friendships that came from being part of this amazing program into the future and hope that others will find environments, programs, and people like the ones I found in Teen Lab.

To learn more about the Teen Lab internship program at the Art Institute of Chicago, click here.