On Wednesday, April 9th, representatives of TeenTix partner organizations, supporters, and other friends gathered at the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at Benaroya Hall for the First Annual TeenTix Partner Meet-Up. The Meet-Up closed with a half-hour-long panel where members of The New Guard, TeenTix's Teen Arts Leadership Society, talked about their experiences as avid arts-goers, and answered questions from the audience.
Our panelists jotted down their thoughts after the panel, and we provide them here for anyone who is interested in a glimpse into the world of an arts-going teen. Enjoy!
April Kim is a senior at Decatur High School in Federal Way. She plays the double bass and has been a member of the Tacoma Youth Symphony Orchestra for 5 years, this year sitting at Co-Principal. Although she first got involved with the arts through classical music, she now considers herself an arts omnivore, regularly attending opera, ballet, visual art, and theatre, and tricking her "non-artsy" friends into going with her (see below).
Elizabeth van Flandern is a senior at Raisbeck Aviation High School, a STEM magnet school in Tukwila. Elizabeth does not identify as an artist, but instead calls herself an avid "arts appreciator". She regularly volunteers at TeenTix HQ because she loves TeenTix for all the opportunities it has given her and people like her to experience the Seattle art scene. She is excited to be a part of an organization that has helped shape who she is.
Coco Allred is in her second year as the President of The New Guard. She is a senior at Skyline High School in Sammamish. Coco is an accomplished visual artist (you might have seen her sculpture, "Split" on display during the 2015 Nepo 5k) who loves to attend all kinds of art. She is also a member of the Henry Teen Collective.
Esmé DeCoster is a sophomore at Seattle Academy of Arts & Sciences. Esmé is a theatre artist who has been seen locally on stage at Seattle Rep (Fences) and Seatle Opera (Don Giovanni, Porgy and Bess), and most recently stage managed for the 5th Avenue's Rising Star Project: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She is a Gregory Awards nominator and voracious theatre-goer.
Caroline Healey is a senior at Lakeside School and the New Guard's Events Chair. She loves art because it helps society explore varied perspectives and influences, something Caroline does on her podcast, which can be found at TheViewFromHere.podbean.com.
Question: What are positive box office/front-of-house experiences that kept us wanting to go back?
People who try their best to get us good seats, regardless of our $5 price tag.
Smiling! This constant theme of just feeling welcomed and continually encouraged to involve myself even more in the arts.
I personally thought it was very welcoming when a box office has the TeenTix sticker on the window because even people who don’t know about TeenTix can ask about it.
Caroline: "It makes a difference to a teen at the box office if you say 'Yay! We love TeenTix!'"
Coco: “it’s the first thing we [run into] when we visit a partner organization”
Elizabeth: "Teens look for the same kind of customer service and quality in shows and at venues that adults do (to be treated with respect and dignity, to see something interesting and great etc) But we also have a lot less confidence in our presence as a teenager which is why confirming our presence with a 'we're glad you're here' or 'we love teentix' or again, just great customer service, is so important."
To add on, a good box office experience creates this Halo Effect on all the experiences we have afterwards, and the initial experience is then ingrained into our minds.
April: I first learned about TeenTix when I was trying to buy a $50 ticket for a Seattle Symphony concert over the phone. The lady asked me how old I was and took the time to teach me about this program called TeenTix. It was the coolest thing ever because she didn’t have to tell me, she could have just sold me that expensive ticket for the regular price, but that over-the-phone experience left me feeling like I won the lottery, and I thank her so much for telling me!
"I basically wish I could find the box office person who first told me about TeenTix and give them a hug, because they changed my life."
Question: What attracts you to a particular show/exhibit/event? How do you get your friends to go?
Caroline: “Just having the word ‘teen’ come up” - If it says somewhere in the marketing for the show that it's "for" teens or has teen themes, it makes some teens feel more comfortable.
Esmé: “Having one-night events.” - Sometimes it's easier to convince your friends to go to something if it's only this ONE NIGHT.
Elizabeth: "Teens like food, and they like the atmosphere of 'an event' especially if they haven't been to a venue before and that location isn't already on their radar. After that the venue or art form is more familiar and teens are more likely to go back."
NOT making the arts the intended highlighted event:
April: "When I hang out with my non-artsy friends, I try to avoid, 'Let’s go to the museum together!' This is because often, their initial reaction is 'ew' or 'no thanks'. But if I say, 'Let’s have a girl’s night out in Seattle!' Then I almost always get a positive reaction. Then I would usually provide rides, spend the day at Pike, walk around the city, and then happen to walk by SAM or McCaw Hall and say, 'There’s a show going on and we have a few hours to kill, let’s go watch!' Then after the show we would eat somewhere nearby and go home."
Caroline: "Use the 2 for $10 on Sunday! If someone isn't interested in the arts, try to introduce them to the arts through another interest of theirs, such as social justice."
Question: What are some educational experiences you look for in partner organizations? / What can partners do to keep us engaged?
Coco: “Speaking in the form of dialogue instead of a lecture. In school, there is always a right answer, whereas outside, we can actually hear different opinions.”
Elizabeth: "Schools and community places that have constant exposure to teens are invaluable because, as we know, if teens have access to the arts, they'll go. However, knowledge is one of the biggest barriers for teens, so reaching out to build relationships with where the teens are is a smart and strategic move both for us and for partner organizations."
We’re hungry for conversation – we want people to ask us what we think.
Seattle Rep included The New Guard in the recent panel discussion for Disgraced by asking them to read the play in advance and generate a lead-off question for the conversation. We really appreciated being included in that way, and having it recognized that we were there.
Many teens our age didn’t have much to do, so on a Friday night, we would resort to things we shouldn’t be doing because we are bored, we have nothing better to do, and it’s a visceral bonding experience. With TeenTix, we now have a choice – the choice to choose an experience that will engage us emotionally, intellectually, and even spiritually.
Teens are more adult than child and want to be treated as such.
Question: What role does art play in your life?
Adults often forget that teens are closer to adulthood than they are to childhood.
Even teens have to deal with problems. We are extremely emotional creatures and art helps us deal with emotions that we often can’t describe.
Art encourages us to mature.
April: "During my early high school years, I had a lot of emotional ups and downs. There were many days where I just wanted to give up. I didn’t have family issues, I had awesome friends at school, and school was challenging, but the good kind. But I stumbled upon questions that I needed to ask myself which I have been trying to avoid – questions regarding who I was, who I wanted to become, and how I was planning to get there. Many of my peers often mute these questions until school, friends, or family drive them crazy – then they drop out of school. So how did I safely overcome these emotional hiccups? Through art. Every weekly 4-hour symphony rehearsal would be a chance for me to bond with other teenagers and MAKE MUSIC! Music that expresses the anxiety, the sadness, happiness, and all the emotions in between. This ultimately helped me face and get rid of my depression. Art has taught me to be more open-minded towards myself and others. It made me into a fighter."
Question: I want my 13-year-old daughter to be more involved in the arts. But all her friend groups seem to have interests in other things. How can I sort of help her find art-driven friends and come to arts events? I want her to come see my performances!
The majority of teens do NOT think their parents are cool – and even if they do think they are, they won’t admit it. The best way to go about this is to help her learn to enjoy art in itself, then with peers, and ultimately with you (as a parent).
Some of the things that have worked for me [April] are…
- Being more exposed to art-driven teens (i.e. Tacoma Youth Symphony, Teen Nights, The New Guard!) Since all my friend groups are interested in these events, we are always wanting to hang out and watch shows together.
- For Parents: Not forcing your teen into the arts.
April: "I get it, as an artistic parent, you want your teens to experience the same beauty in art as you did. But the reality is, forcing your teen to do something they have no interest in, can actually drive them away from the arts. The cool thing about being a parent though, is that you can trick us into believing that we chose to be involved in the arts. (Everything is much cooler when you believe you have the option to choose!)"