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Teen Programs

The Arts Can Take You Places!

Teen AmbassadorsWith support from the George Lucas Family Foundation, the National Museum of African Art engages teens in the arts and visual culture of Africa through workshops, events and our signature teen offering, the Teen Ambassadors Program. Check out videos produced by our Teen Ambassadors, or click on any of the above links to learn more about upcoming teen events and the Teen Ambassadors Program.

If you are an educator, parent, or teen and would like to learn more about teen programs, send an email to Youth Engagement Coordinator Alli Hartley at to be added to our teen programs mailing list. Please also email Alli if you are a community organization looking for a partnership.

Teen ambassadorsThe Teen Ambassadors is the National Museum of African Art’s signature teen program. It is an opportunity for teens in the D.C. metro area with an interest in the arts, culture and history of Africa to learn to serve as frontline interpreters at the museum. Our Teen Ambassadors serve as storytellers and meaning-makers in the Museum environment, providing programming to a wide variety of visitors.

In the first year of teen programming in 2015, 1,000 visitors interacted with a Teen Ambassador in events facilitated and designed directly by the teens or youth engagement staff, such as Teen Tours, Teen-to-Teen workshops, and teen events. In addition, another 1,000 visitors interacted with Teen Ambassadors in programs coordinated by other offices within the Education Department. 19 students from the DC metro area have volunteered extensively at the Museum, ranging from 25 to 100 service hours. Within the span of a year, the Youth Engagement Office has established several partnerships with local schools and nonprofits to bring our programming to a wider audience.

Please click here to download an application for the summer 2016 class of Teen Ambassadors.

If you’d like to be on the email list for additional teen programs, contact Alli Hartley at

Please check back soon.
Digital Game Design in African Art

This spring, the Teen Ambassadors at the National Museum of African Art are becoming digital game designers! That’s right—the purpose of the program is to empower students as storytellers and meaning-makers in the museum environment. This semester, the teens’ way of expressing meaning is through games. The teens will be creating digital activities that encourage close-looking throughout the Mosaic exhibit at the National Museum of African Art. Over the next few weeks, they will research the collections, write content, and study how visitors interact with the exhibits. Then, students will create digital games. These games will be “play-tested” by other students, museum educators, and members of the public.

While it may be scary to think an institution is leaving the gallery experience in the hands of teenagers, the core of the Teen Ambassadors program is trust. The ten young people who are participating in this experience are all Teen Ambassadors who have gone through training to lead tours in the gallery and who routinely lead tours in the gallery. They know our visitors, they know our collection, and they are passionate about communicating information about the arts and visual cultures of Africa. In this space, the teens will share what they’ve been working on, and reflect upon the experiences. Each week, one student will share their reflections. We hope you continue to check back often to see the games that our teens are creating evolve. Join us in June at the Museum to play the games the students are creating!

-Alli Hartley, Youth Engagement Coordinator

Week 1 Blog: Sage

Hi everyone, Sage here. Over the weekend, we had our first meeting for the game project. The group went over some of the basics of using Edventure Builder, a fresh and educational website that allows teachers and students to create games. We also talked with one of the developers behind Edventure Builder, Ms. Kellian Adams. She gave us crucial insight into how to make entertaining games.

Week 2 Blog: Majula

On Saturday, March 5th, the Teen Ambassadors made towers from spaghetti sticks and marshmallows, without talking, to learn about structures, did some audience research by going into exhibits and asking people general questions such as: ‘How long would you spend on a museum game?’, worked more within our groups on our goals, resources and restrictions and some groups decided on the game type they wanted.

Week 3 Blog: Project Meeting

Our goals for this meeting were to (1) finish writing a description for each of our team’s respective game (2) come up with a list of objects to incorporate in the game and (3) to devise a playmap for the Edventure Builder, which is the primarily the job of the Product Manager. I’m proud to say that everyone was able to complete these goals. In particular, Team #1 solidified their concept and interestingly, Team #3 ended up completely rewriting their idea. Everyone is working on fleshing out the finer details, beginning to write drafts of the game’s texts, figuring out multimedia components, and coming up with compelling game titles.

Week 4 Blog: Nick

On Saturday, April 2nd, seven Teen Ambassadors primarily worked to produce the general layout and text that would would be incorporated into the three finished games. The text specifically included that of the header, footer, primary text, photo credits, “hint texts,” “success texts,” “failure texts,” and titles. Unlike in past weeks, the Teen Ambassadors did not conduct “Audience Research” and solely directed their attention towards specific aspects of the games themselves. Before beginning individual assignments, the teams attempted to think of a suitable name for the museum’s collective title for such digital gallery games besides the previously suggested “Get Gaming.”

Week 5 Blog: Naomi

This week, we worked on finalizing our games in the Edventure Builder and getting them ready for playtesting. We worked out any kinks or holes in our game designs and went up to the gallery to see how our games would flow walking from piece to piece.

Week 6 Blog: Eleni

This week, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on our game.

Of course, it’s a really gratifying feeling to see this project transform from ideas to concrete, playable, working games. When we started, our games were nothing more than flowcharts and brainstorming on scrap paper. This week, we are rounding up final edits and getting ready for Alpha testing.

Throughout the course of the year, the National Museum of African Art hosts many visiting artists. In these videos, Teen Ambassadors interview artists.

Ato Malinda:
In summer of 2015, the artist Ato Malinda did a residency at the National Museum of African Art. Ato Malindo’s video On fait ensemble (We Do Together) is on view as part of the museum’s exhibition The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. In this video, Teen Ambassadors Nick, Amyra, Majula and Taylor speak to Ato about her career as an artist and her work.

Marcus Neustetter:
In December of 2015, the Teen Ambassadors interviewed artist Marcus Neustetter. Teens Zola, Nick and Taylor had an excellent interview, in which they discussed Marcus’s art and community engagement.

In 2015, the National Museum of African Art hosted a teen art contest. The winners were Adero Brooks and Akilah Johnston. Please email Alli Hartley at if you’d like to be on the list for future art contests.

Adero Brooks

Acrylic and Tempera on wood

Artist Statement:
“I used a mask from the museum’s website and decided to modernize it. Many of the styles that we wear today are very African inspired and my teacher and I came up with the idea to recreate the mask and give her up-to-date colors and styling.”

Akilah Johnston

The Daughters of Africa
Styrofoam Board, Fabric, Mud Clothe, Cowrie Shells, Pipe Cleaners

Artist Statement:
The first thing I thought about when I read the prompt about “what Africa means to me,” is the women of Africa. I wanted to portray the different types of women from the African continent. Also, when I think of Africa I think of the various handcrafted fabrics from Africa like kente and Mud clothe as well as other African inspired clothes. The cowrie shells represent the wealth of Africa since they were a common form of currency on the continent. The various hair styles (braids, short close cut, locs and the Afro) show the diversity of beauty on the African continent.

Sounds of the City

During the first week of February 2016, Emeka Ogboh participated in workshops at three local high schools and at the museum. Inspired by his soundscapes of Lagos, the Nigerian sound artist worked with 100 local teens to create a collaborative soundscape of D.C. Ogboh introduced teens to the idea of “soundwalks”—journeys through their own neighborhoods to capture ambient sounds of the environment.

Listen below to some of the students’ recordings. And, if you are based in or visiting the Washington area, add your own sounds to the project! We were only able to record at a few locations during Ogboh’s visit—contribute the sounds of your D.C. to our audio map.

To listen to the sounds just click on “LISTEN HERE” in the maps information box.

If you are interested in adding your sound recordings to our project, please send .wav or .mp3 file-format recordings or register your school group for a free soundwalk and sound-art lesson facilitated by museum educators. Send all requests and recordings to Alli Hartley at Recordings should be no larger than 3 MB.

Don’t miss Market Symphony by Emeka Ogboh at the National Museum of African Art, the innovative exhibition that inspired this project!

The fine print: Ownership of all works submitted to the National Museum of African Art, including copyright, will remain the property of the entrant who submitted the work. However, it is a condition of entry that you grant to the Smithsonian an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide right to use and reproduce copies of the submitted work(s) in the website, for the exhibition, publications, archives, public programs, publicity, promotion, research, postcards, prints, posters, and other products, in all formats now known or later developed (including but not limited to electronic distribution on websites and social media accounts maintained by the Smithsonian), made in connection with the National Museum of African and related exhibitions and programs.

Teen programs are generously supported by the Mellody Hobson and George Lucas Education Endowment.