Youth Curatorial Programs: Meaning-Making in a Participatory Climate
This thesis investigates an observed emergence of youth curatorial programs where youths and children learn about exhibition making and in turn, create their own student-curated exhibitions. While activities related to the modalities of making art, and in more recent histories, activities that encourage interpretive viewing are commonly used in art education, exhibition making or curating is rarely capitalized on as a learning activity. Hence, the appearance of youth curatorial programs, in what I perceive as a recent phenomenon, strikes me as unusual and worthy of study. Central to examining these programs are the evolving ideas surrounding participation, how these ideas are read by arts organizations and their respective programs, and the outcome of the pedagogical translation in implementation. The study seeks to understand the motivations of these arts organizations and how their programs are part of broader goals that call not only for arts attendance but audience engagement on the part of arts institutions. The study rides on the belief that there are benefits in understanding the frameworks-educational, curatorial, organizational employed by these curatorial programs. Its broad research question is how the unique pedagogies found in youth curatorial programs can engage with notions of participation in the arts. Using three distinct case studies from a contemporary art museum, a non-profit gallery, and a series of art lessons in a public school, the study examines how they each interpret and implement curating as a learning activity in relation to their organizational mission and resources. The study is situated at the start by an analysis of recent policy papers and complemented at the end by a literature review of educational theories. The study aims to identify leverage points within these frameworks and to outline recommendations that can help guide arts organizations and individuals in designing strategic yet meaningful arts education activities that can contribute towards long-term sustainability in the arts.