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Study: Room to Rise

Now in its eighteenth year, CAMH’s Teen Council was one of the first organizations of its kind in the U.S. This diverse group of teenagers from the Houston area is employed by CAMH to create high impact, teen-specific programming with the goal of making the museum a welcoming public space for youth audiences. Members are responsible for all aspects of program development, from generating ideas to marketing and presenting these programs to their peers. These programs are developed specifically to tap into and highlight the creative enthusiasm of Houston’s youth. As a branch of the Education Department, Teen Council serves our diverse Houston audiences and beyond, annually reaching 15,000 to 18,000 teens of all socioeconomic levels, including youth from inner-city schools and disadvantaged families.

Teen Council holds several youth-focused events each year, all of which are organized by its members. Some past events include art markets, fashion shows, film screenings, listening parties, poetry readings and concerts, all featuring work by Houston-area teens. Teen Council members take initiative with each of these programs by speaking at these events, discussing their thought processes and the subject matter involved. Throughout this process, members receive in-depth, behind-the-scenes museum experience, learn about pathways to creative careers, and develop leadership, collaboration, and critical thinking skills while gaining real-world experience planning exhibitions and events in a museum setting. Members’ education is supplemented by learning journeys to Houston-area museums, artist studios, and collections, allowing members to have face-to-face discussions with Houston’s top artists and arts professionals, and exposing these teens to all aspects of the artistic community, including the variety of learning pathways and career opportunities available in creative fields.

CAMH recently participated in a study—spearheaded by the Whitney Museum of American Art and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services—that explored the lasting impact of intensive teen programs in art museums in Room to Rise: The Lasting Impact of Intensive Teen Programs in Art Museums. The study focused on the four museums that originated teen-focused programs in the 1990s; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to determine how the short-term impact of these programs extends to meaningful long-term outcomes for the alumni and the institutions. The study found that the programs had a powerful impact on the alumni, including:

  • A greater sense of identity, confidence, and empowerment.
  • Exposure to new career paths, which in turn helps solidify professional goals and promote long-term 
academic and career development.
  • Practical life skills, particularly in terms of collaboration and project-based work.
  • A greater appreciation for museums’ role in society.
  • A stronger appreciation for community, collaboration, and diversity, and recognition the importance 
of service.

Alumni report that these effects are long lasting, and have a significant effect on the career paths they choose and their general outlook. CAMH prides itself in pioneering new efforts to engage different audiences. Our Teen Council has been a cornerstone of our education programming for 17 years and participation in this study highlighted CAMH’s significant efforts in engaging Houston’s youth.

CAMH’s Teen Council changed my life. Not only did it give me a more defined sense of purpose than I’d ever had before, it gave me the chance to use that drive to realize the common goals of myself and my peers. Teen Council made me feel fulfilled, like I was working to actualize something larger than myself. But most of all, it helped me become a better human being. It helped make me whole. The sense of autonomy and wholeness programs like Teen Council give teens is massive. I’ll be parsing out how it did that for years to come, and I have CAMH to thank for it. I remain immensely grateful.
Eli Winter, Former Teen Council Member

Teen Council Support

Teen Council is generously supported by Ms. Louisa Stude Sarofim.