In this day and age of 2020, any chance to dress up, socialize, and enjoy a party drink or two is a Zoom call worth attending. Full of glitter, ball gowns, fun crazy wigs, bright makeup, and a red-carpet, this annual celebration really is the heart of TeenTix, and a sweet ode to its beloved pass program.
Last year, I went to the TeenTix Gala and Teeny Awards as a representative of the Newsroom. The Teeny Awards celebrated Arts Partners, and the TeenTix Gala celebrated TeenTix’s supporters. At the gala there were lots of crowns, masks, and references to the TeenTix board members’ teenage selves, whose photos accompanied lively centerpieces on each table. The Teeny Gala was just a week after the Teeny Awards, and many of the arts organizations who were nominated for awards were now present at the gala. Through the connections formed at these events, communities grow and opportunities unfold. What is so special about the TeenTix Gala is that it provides a space to meet others who crave creativity and serves as the jumping off point for us to grow in our love for the arts together. This year, TeenTix has split up the two events and the TeenTix Gala will be held in April 2021, while the Teeny Awards were hosted this November.
When I joined TeenTix New Guard this past January, I was most excited to help plan the Teeny Awards. When the planning committee started brainstorming back in June, we realized that this year would be different from the 2019 awards show. This year, we had to harness the same community-building atmosphere of our annual event onto a virtual stage; no longer would we be mingling at the SIFF cinema, now it would be set in people’s living rooms. We included different aspects from The Teeny Awards and the TeenTix Gala and combined them into the 2020 Virtual Teeny Awards. Initially, everyone was split into breakout rooms, which functioned as proxies for the round tables at the previous gala. The workshops and awards show was like the Teeny Awards part of the evening. For me, what was perhaps the hardest to say goodbye to this year was the infamous TeenTix snack table. The double stuffed Oreos and unlimited access to Rachel’s Ginger Beer were certainly missed, but it was cool to enjoy the signature drink of this virtual evening: a Sweet Sixteeny (YUM!).
TeenTix is 16 years old this year, and just like with any other sweet 16th birthday, there comes change: the mood might be different, the decorations more sophisticated, and there may be some new faces along with the appearance of the ones we know and love. I, like many other New Guardians and pass holders, share a birth year with TeenTix, and any birthday during a pandemic is no doubt bittersweet. The connection that all 16 year olds share, including TeenTix, is that during this pandemic, it is a weird and exciting time to turn 16. We are all trying new things, and making our way in a COVID-19 world. During social distancing, intimate times with friends and family can feel lonesome when their warm faces are just pixels projected from your TV. It might feel like the only benefit to all this is getting to have all that cake for yourself. So when it came to planning this year’s virtual event, our goal was to avoid that empty feeling and make the awards feel more personal, just like a birthday party where you finally get to see your friends after a month away at summer camp.
Since August, the Teeny Awards committee, Teeny Awards intern Daisy, and the adult TeenTix staff have been brainstorming how to make this a COVID friendly yet fun show. This year has been a time filled with a lot of new things, new routines, and new hobbies, and likewise we approached this with a new mindset. This year, the Teeny Awards stretched out over two days instead of one. We also combined what was previously the New Guard’s Teen Arts and Opportunities Fair and the many workshops we hold throughout the year into the Teeny Awards through Community Day, the second day of events. The TeenTix website is currently housing a virtual gallery displaying the works from a new mentorship program, and shares about what each teen accomplished in the mentorships. On the first day, before the Teeny Awards show, everyone played games over Zoom, socializing while coloring a TeenTix coloring sheet (drawn by a fellow New Guardian!).
This year, the Teeny Awards show was streamed on YouTube and a couple of us teens got to see the awards announced in a Zoom watch party, so we could all celebrate the winners and drink our Sweet Sixteenys! During quarantine, there aren't always a lot of chances to meet new people, so it was refreshing to have that during the two days of the Teeny Awards. People dressed up, (I wore a tiara in true Sweet Sixteen fashion), and we were treated to performances by Mirabai Kukathas, Helena Goos, and many more. The dance group DANDY hosted the show, bringing their lively and fresh performances to our screens.
The following morning, at Community Day, we were in for a treat with a workshop hosted by Martin Douglas, from KEXP, where we learned about rap and the cultural significance of the Black communities it is grounded in. We learned from Martin about many rap songs that discuss issues of incarceration and police brutality against Black people, and we discussed the role of music within activism and how that is presented. In the afternoon, I attended an Art as Activism panel where we got to share our own experiences and learn from the panelists, all local artist/activists about their work. It was exciting to have discussions with such talented artists and to learn about their creative process and intentions with their art. Just like last year, I feel so inspired by my experiences from the Teeny Awards. My own creativity has been refueled, and I feel like—for the first time in a long long time—I actually had fun on a Zoom call! And an extra bonus: I found a new artist to obsess over. The Teeny Awards always inspire me to write more, to use my TeenTix Pass frequently, and to make friends and engage in more art.
BRB, logging off to follow Mirabai Kukathas on Instagram!