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Re:Imagining the Museum

While you were sleeping last Saturday night, 94 teenagers flooded the Art Institute for a whirlwind 24-hour design experience, Re:Imagine24, created and hosted by the museum’s Teen Council. From music to art to pizza to dancing, the event is a non-stop museum immersion, one that challenges local teenagers to reconsider the museum experience and think about how the youth voice can be heard. Teens create a response in one of the following five categories, facilitated by teaching artists:

Building, Unbuilding, Rebuilding

Teens were challenged to build structures that engaged visitors in three different ways: to experience a more conscious state of dreaming, to explore childhood memories, and to bridge the past with the present.


Using the theme of “dilemmas” and techniques from drawing to painting to transfer, teens designed printed zines inspired by works in the museum’s contemporary galleries.

DJ and Music Production

Inspired by the photography exhibition Provoke, teens created a collaborative sound piece, connecting the 1960s political resistance in Japan with current movements they’ve seen or experienced firsthand.

Fashion and Performance

One group spent the evening constructing a wearable garment from found materials in a response to one of three prompts: disrupt (museum) space, perform “yourself,” or take a stance.


Each participant in the final group carved, inked, and pulled 25 individual prints to give to other teens at the event to bring back to their respective communities. With the variety of Chicagoland neighborhoods the teens represented, the prints and teens’ messages will be scattered across the city.

Teens experienced the museum in unique ways as well. A late-night visit to Hélio Oiticica, filled with participatory art, was particularly well-suited for the evening. Experiencing the art without the crowds gave the teens an expanded ability to explore Oiticica’s work and influenced many of their design projects.

Apart from the teaching artists, the event is entirely youth-driven, and the final products vary widely. Hillary Cook, assistant director of youth programs, says, “Everybody has something to share about their creative vision...and the outcome is so radically different from room to room.”

“The concept of Re:Imagine is to push teens to realize that there isn’t a limit to their creativity,” says Cindy Mei, a member of the Teen Council and Re:Imagine participant. “People often underestimate the power of youth, but talent has no age restriction.”

When asked what the most challenging part of Re:Imagine is, Cindy replied, “Staying awake. Definitely staying awake.”

The Teen Council is a group of 16 Chicagoland teens who come together every week to design museum events and experiences that will be meaningful for all youth, and Re:Imagine is just one of their endeavors. Upcoming events include Exuberus, a teen-only bash that kicks off the summer with open galleries, art-making, a teen art exchange, and lots of food and dancing.

Parents and community members stopped by the next morning to see the teens’ overnight work, and you can see the process and products of much of Re:Imagine in the Art Institute’s Ryan Learning Center. The teens’ artwork was installed throughout the night and will remain on display through early summer.

The Teen Council program is generously sponsored by Anita and Prabhakant Sinha and Richard and Ann Carr.

Find out more about upcoming programs and opportunities for teens.