Why Museums Don't Suck: The Current State of Teen Engagement
This week, one of the contributing authorsat ArtMuseumTeaching.com brought to my attention a recent column from LA Youth written by 15-year-old Howard Hwang who felt compelled to write about his distaste for visiting museums. His piece entitled “Why museums suck” seems to have already generated an interesting response from the museum community and beyond, so I thought perhaps I would throw this post up and see if, in fact, anything productive could come from this teenager’s rant. Howard admittedly hates museums, but he recently decided to visit six of them in the LA area anyway and then filed his ‘report.’
So the question presents itself: do museums really suck?
I’m probably not using Howard’s exact language or ideas when I define what it means for a museum to “suck,” but I think many of the reasons for his lack of connection with these institutions are not necessarily new. For him (and he is definitely not alone), museums are boring and not frequently places where teenagers go to have fun and hang out. But is this entirely true? While Howard’s article seems to provide an opportunity for us museum folk to lament on the perpetual problems museums have engaging teenagers (adding fuel to Howard’s flame), I would rather take this as a moment to shine some light on what museums are doing that doesn’t suck. I’m certainly not saying that museums are doing everything necessary to engage teen audiences (far from it), but I would rather counter Howard Hwang’s diatribe with some thoughts on “why museums don’t suck.” And then maybe the conversation can productively refocus on what museums could be doing better to connect with teens like Howard….