NOMA Teen Squad builds lasting connections


Artist Fred Wilson met with the Teen Squad in October 2019.

NOMA’s Teen Squad presents Teen Night: VIBRANT DIMENSIONS, a Friday night takeover on March 6 from 6 to 9 pm inspired by the work of artists Alia Alia and Odili Donald Odita. Wear your boldest and brightest and enjoy FREE food, screen-printed T-shirts, art activities, youth performances, music by DJ Legatron Prime and more! Planned by teens, Teen Nights at NOMA are free and open to high school students.

Read more about the Teen Squad in this article from NOMA Magazine.

According to recent census numbers, nearly 90,000 teens live in New Orleans.  Annually, over the course of a school year,  NOMA’s Teen Squad works to make the museum a more welcoming space for this vital audience. 

The Teen Squad is a diverse group of creative high school students from across the city who serve as leaders and ambassadors for the museum. Teen Squad members meet on a weekly basis throughout the school year to engage in arts immersion programming of all kinds: interviews with contemporary artists, meetings and tours with NOMA staff, art-making workshops, field trips to arts organizations, and planning and implementation of teen events at the museum.

Youth Programs Coordinator and Teen Squad program lead Danielle Rives, who joined NOMA in August 2019, credits the course of her career path to a teen program at the Walters Art Museum in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. “I never would have known this work existed unless I had the experience I did on a museum teen council,” she said. “I did not regularly visit museums with my family, so my exposure was primarily through school visits, which began to peter out in high school, until I learned to seek it out on my own. Leading NOMA’s Teen Squad has allowed me to come full circle.”

The Teen Squad’s year began with a focus on getting to know the museum and getting comfortable looking at and talking about art in the galleries with an emphasis on Visual Thinking Strategies—a process of facilitating conversations through personal observations, and connecting comments with visual evidence. Guided by a central theme of water, the Teen Squad worked with Curator Ndubuisi Ezeluomba and Professional Pathways intern Kyle Salandy from Xavier University to learn about water-related figures in African and Haitian traditions. Students also examined contemporary works that address both the life-giving and destructive relationship of Louisiana to its aqueous terrain.

During a field trip to the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University, the Teen Squad toured an exhibition of works by activist and photographer Latoya Ruby Frazier on the Flint water crisis in Michigan and another focusing on a long-litigated superfund site in New Orleans. A senior student from Tulane explained how he and other university students from the Critical Visualization Media Lab worked with residents at Gordon Plaza, a neighborhood built atop a reclaimed toxic landfill in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, to create an exhibition that gives voice to their plight.

Eco-sensitivity and environmental justice were also central to discussions with Regina Agu, an artist whose panoramic photo installation Passage in NOMA’s Great Hall conveys both the natural splendor and exploitation of wetlands in the Mississippi River delta. Agu discussed her practice and encouraged Teen Squad members to offer their viewpoints on this contemporary installation and works by nineteenth-century artists whose idealized landscapes were on view in Inventing Acadia: Painting and Place in Louisiana. 

The Teen Squad’s year will culminate in a Teen Night on March 6—an evening designed by and for teens. Teen Squad members will determine the choice of music, art-making activities, and lead tours after participating in a series of tour-training sessions on facilitation techniques and art interpretation.

“I hope students will come to experience NOMA as an active place for coming together and being creative, where they can feel comfortable, where they can connect with artworks” Rives said. “Of course it’s for them to grow, identify goals for their futures, and expand their ways of thinking—but it’s also incredibly valuable for us to make space for them here so that they can help shape the museum experience for young people and their communities” 

Click here for more information on NOMA’s Teen Squad, including how to apply for the program, along with other opportunities for visitors ages 13 to 19.

Teen Squad is supported by the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative of the Walton Family Foundation and Ford Foundation. 

NOMA members inspire the love of art in every visitor who walks into the Great Hall or through the gates of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

In addition to enjoying benefits like special members’ previews of exhibitions, free wellness classes surrounded by sculptures, and a complimentary subscription to NOMA Magazine, our members enable schoolchildren to discover the Old Masters, community members to engage with world-class art and local artists, and NOMA’s curators to present innovative and provocative exhibitions year after year.