A dozen teenagers shuffle into a white room on the third floor of Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and take their seats at a long white table. Large desktop computers line one wall of the space. It’s a Thursday afternoon, which for these teens means another three-hour PAMM Teen Arts Council (PTAC) meeting.
PTAC was created as a way to give Miami's adolescents their place within the museum. The teens plan events, lead tours, and even manage a group blog and PAMM's social media pages. Marie Vickles, the museum's director of education, explains that when PAMM first opened the doors to its 200,000-square-foot building, the staff sought to fill a youth-shaped void in the space.
“PTAC has contributed ideas that have rippled through the museum and turned into activations," Vickles says. "The kids truly open up the way we look and think about art as part of our daily lives.”
For first-year member and Hialeah resident Kevin Garcia, joining PTAC was about gaining exposure to the arts. “Hialeah is a very practical city,” the 17-year-old theater student says. “There’s a lot of business, a lot of factories... I needed a place to find art that was not just at school, and then I heard of PTAC.”
PTAC gives its members the tremendous benefit of access to art fairs during Miami Art Week. “Teens don’t really get to go to Basel,” 16-year-old second-year member Amelia Letson laments. “It’s like this exclusive thing, so when we went last year with PTAC, it was a lot of fun to look at the art and get to experience that with my friends.”
The organization reasons that young people are not only future museum-goers but also future artists and collectors. Experiences from their childhood will influence their adult lives, so why not cultivate a love for the arts at a young age?
Although the local art museum offers kid-friendly programming year-round, it rolls out the metaphorical red carpet for Miami Art Week. Vickles points to an outdoor performance, After the Fracture, as being a surefire teen favorite this year. PAMM is hosting the outdoor event in conjunction with one of their current exhibitions, The Other Side of Now by artist Nyugen Smith.
“I think more than any other group, youth and teens tend to be more open to interactive performances,” says Vickles.
Various fairs, including Art Basel Miami Beach, offer areas for parents to leave their kids while they shop. However, more fairs are beginning to create special programming for young children and their parents.
Scope International Contemporary Art Show returns to Miami Art Week for its 19th year, and as founder and president Alexis Hubshman likes to say, Scope is the kind of art fair that prides itself on taking risks. “It’s part of the reason we’ve been around as long as we have,” he says. “We’ve always stayed true to this mandate to show new things and take chances.”
As the fair’s media release states, Scope will offer some unique programming this year, including a “Young Collectors tour for guests 7-13 years old... and a ‘please touch’ experience for Young Collectors.”
“There are some galleries that make work we think would be particularly interesting to the younger audience,” Hubshman says. “But in general, we want them to sort of fall in love and have their own experiences with any one piece or booth in particular.”
Programming for children is something the fair has been doing for some time, says Hubshman, who sees it as an opportunity to build a relationship with a younger audience. Prior to the focus on young collectors for Scope's 2019 edition, there was a project called Kid Scope for many years.
“The idea that we can give parents and their kids an environment to share together and have an experience is incredibly important,” the Scope founder says. “For us, it makes sense to start exposing children to art at a young age.” Scope’s kid-friendly programming is not only designed to be fun for younger audiences but is also methodically organized in a way to leave a long-lasting impact on creative young minds.
Vickles has been taking her now-teenage daughter to the art fairs since she was in a stroller. For the PAMM educational director, a lack of kid-friendly programming wasn’t going to prevent her from attending events — or exposing her daughter to art — during Miami Art Week.
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“I know that a lot of people in Miami are starting to see the fairs as more of a family outing... I definitely think we’ll start to see more programming catered for youths and for teens [at art fairs]," Vickles says.
"As a parent, it makes you feel that your children are going to be welcomed," she adds. “If you can experience art in some way, that’s all you need to be able to really let it make an impact on you.”
Scope. Wednesday, December 4, through Sunday, December 8, at 801 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; scope-art.com. Tickets cost $40 to $200.
After the Fracture. 3 p.m. Wednesday, December 4, at Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; pamm.org. Admission is free with RSVP.