The Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council’s (WACTAC) 2015–2016 year was an extremely political one. It makes sense: the videos of police violence against Native, Black, and Latinx people have been very present—bringing new eyes and a current context to the very old problem of systemic oppression of people of color. Donald Trump is running for president on a platform that relies on divisions of class, race, gender, and religion. There have been numerous mass shootings in a short period of time. So much violence, so much hate, and so many platforms and conversations about all of these things online that it can seem like impending doom is upon us (it is not, though).
In terms of programming, WACTAC heard Emory Douglas, the former Minister of Culture of the Black Panthers talk about his life’s work and practice and how it is directly connected to the Black Lives Matter movement. WACTAC also took part in the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover along with 10 partnering youth-arts organizations to create video pieces that were displayed on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis (see WACTAC’s video here). There was tension throughout the project because the workshops were not youth-led and the Guerrilla Girls were using outdated definitions of gender, among other issues.
Needless to say, there has been a lot to talk about. In my experience young people have a much more developed language and understanding when it comes to these issues. Along side of that, there is currently more mainstream conversation about inequity across the board than any other point in my 32 years of life as a cis-gender white man. Young people have a greater understanding of intersectionality, they are organizing people, leading the movements, and fiercely working toward change and equity.
And things are changing. There is continued work we must do, but things are slowly changing.
In response to this year’s programming and these long standing issues, WACTAC made a zine with artist, designer, and organizer Ashley Fairbanks as its final project. Some of it is geared specifically towards the Walker and some of it is more broadly aimed at institutions. It is critical and it is real. It is how art museums are viewed by many people. They are not wrong: museums and many other institutions have not owned up to their exclusionary history and contexts. We need not be afraid of this criticism. We should see it as a call to action. If this is how museums are viewed, we should show all of the tangible steps being taken as we reject the old definitions of what museums are and who they are for as we work to create something new and equitable.
The intro to WACTAC’s zine reads:
The Walker Art Center Teen Arts Council (WACTAC) is made up of 13 young people from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and larger metro area of the Twin Cities. We have focused discussions about event planning, art making, social issues, and youth outreach. This year WACTAC has examined vital questions of ethics, class, privilege, and reform. These questions work to interrupt the dominant museum practice. This shift of focus has been propelled by discriminatory experiences we’ve endured and witnessed in our daily existences in the metro area and through the Walker’s programming. We, as Walker’s only youth program, demand Walker Art Center, art establishments, and individuals nurture and specifically create space for radical creative communities that challenge institutions on matters of accessibility and collective ownership.
If you would like a paper copy of the zine, please email email@example.com or come by the Walker in person and ask for one at the desk!