Though the National Portrait Gallery officially closes at 7:00 PM, on Friday, April 8th, the museum’s famous atrium was open exclusively to teenagers in the DC area from 7:00 to 9:00 for the Paint Ball. The Paint Ball was an event organized by the Teen Museum Council as a night for teens to engage with the museum, with the arts, and with their peers.
Complete with delicious food, interactive art projects, and strobe lights, the Paint Ball was charged with an infectious energy and feeling of community. The night started off with a group of students performing slam poetry about topics ranging from the everyday effects of racism to the dangerous narrative of the Twilight saga. Caroline Soffer, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, described the slam poetry, highlighting the sense of community that arose from listening to such personal poetry as a collective group: “I feel like whenever you put teenagers in an enclosed space where they can really connect with each other it’s inspiring.”
Another key part of the Paint Ball was the dance floor, whose DJ was none other than GDS’s own high school art teacher Adrian Loving. According to senior Gabby Preston, the music and dancing fostered connections between the different students. “There were a bunch of times when someone jumped in the middle of something and then it was just everyone jumping around,” she added, explaining that while not sparking immediate friendships, dancing together was a way of naturally forming relationships with the other high schoolers.
Along with a stage, a dance floor, and a food section, the atrium was filled with various collaborative art projects, including an art wall, a light art stand, a portrait-drawing competition, and student art shows. Said Preston, “My favorite project was the art wall. People were adding to each other’s drawings and even just writing their own names.” Kat McGraw and Molly Flora from Robinson Secondary School enjoyed the portrait competition, mingling with students from all across the DC area. “At my school, the athletics department gets loads of money while the art programs get $2 and a peanut butter sandwich, so it’s great to finally have a free space to draw,” McGraw said.
The Teen Museum Council played a crucial role in the planning of the Paint Ball and the creation of the inclusive environment. “Our goal for the Teen Museum Council is to get teens into the museum and create different programs that are for teens done by teen. We want our teens to really feel empowered through programing,” said Blair Kirkbaumer, the council’s director. “The more teens we can get in here, the better. Tonight there are teens from everywhere. It’s exciting to see that, and to see people collaborating with each other. People are having conversations, and we hope to continue that,” she added.
To apply to be on the Teen Museum Council, one can go to the National Portrait Gallery’s website and find an application under the “For Teens” section. There are summer camps and other events that are free for high schoolers listed online as well. These activities are a great opportunity to enjoy the arts while also meeting high schoolers from around the DC area.