Teens Take the Met!

The Gray Foundation hosts a teens night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Pamela Li

A teenage performing arts group adds a fun twist to Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth.’

On Friday, May 31st, 2019, the Gray Foundation hosted Teens Take the Met! at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The event was co-organized with over forty community partners, and free for everyone ages thurteen and up with a middle or high school ID. As a long-time enthusiast of New York City’s most popular museum, I decided to venture down to 5th Avenue with a few of my friends to view the event.

Upon arrival at the entrance of the museum, I was met with giant golden balloons of letters that read, ‘TEENS.’ My friends and I had registered for tickets a week in advance in order to beat the line. After checking in our bags, the first event exhibit we encountered was in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. The seating area of the theater was dark upon walking in, but red, green, and blue lights alternately shone across the stage.

Inside held a “Battle of the Bands” contest hosted by the New York House Band, where teenagers advanced on stage and performed their own original songs. The bands who performed throughout the night were named Moderate Rock, The Antagonists, Geese, and the School of Rock. I became easily captivated by the different sounds that filled the auditorium, but decided to continue exploring the museum with the time we had left.

Pamela Li
A group of three teenagers perform their own original songs for a “Battle of the Bands” contest.

Another exhibit that we came across was a GIF-making technology set up by New York University’s (NYU) Department of Photography at the Tisch School of the Arts. Students from Tisch allowed us to capture a series of four photos, which was then instantly converted into a GIF available on mobile phones. Their purpose was to advertise their free digital photography program open to 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade high school students in the greater New York City area interested in photo-based image making.

“In a world that engorges itself with finished products, it’s nice to remind the artist that he/she is still just as important,” said Rebecca Zhang ’20..

A few turns in the Egyptian exhibit led us to an activity held by the Cooper Hewitt Museum, located in the Upper East Side. Laid out across a table were boxes of crafting supplies such as foam cubes, wooden sticks, and plastic netting. Next to the boxes were cards with objectives printed on them, which challenged a person to craft what the task entailed. Some challenges included designing a structure using only seven cubes and three toothpicks, whereas others were more realistically-oriented, such as building a structure that could hold your phone and ID cards. The goal was to observe how you could solve a problem with your own creativity and the materials provided to you.

Nearby the Temple of Dendur exhibit was an electronic arts setup called “Synthesize Sound,” presented by HarvestWorks, a digital media arts center. Standing in front of a microphone, a sound wave technology system was able to reproduce and display ourselves on the screen. Our movement and voices were picked up by sensors which were then ran through a program and reflected back on the computer. “I’m interested in studying film in the future, and I think it was absolutely fascinating to see how a technology lab of all things could inspire an art form,” said Rebecca Zhang ’20.

Meanwhile, in the Greek statue exhibit were performances done by developing artist groups. Two performances included ARTIVISM, a portmanteau word combining art and activism, and a Macbeth Remix, which put a creative twist in the enactment of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Young performing artists demonstrated their brilliant acting and vocal abilities in casts and ensembles in front of a doting audience. “I’m not a very musical person, but seeing the energy in their singing and acting just kept me entranced by their performances,” said Ethan Sison ’20.  

Pamela Li
Kids kick back and take a seat on the floor as they draw their own pins.

The night ended with a station by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, where visitors were welcome to draw and then assemble their own pins with a machine. The station was titled, “Identity Shields and Buttons,” and gave freedom of expression to the artist, along with a supply of paper, pin casings, and a variety of colored pencils. “I made three pins, and I’m really proud of the way they came out. I’m glad the museum gave us the chance to individually engineer our own works of art. In a world that engorges itself with finished products, it’s nice to remind the artist that he/she is still just as important,” said Zhang.

Pamela Li
The Bronx Museum of the Arts offers creative pin-making dubbed as “Identity Shields and Buttons.”