The Teeny Awards and Youth Empowerment

Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Kaylee Yu


The arts are life-changing.

As children, we often experience them through the lens of obligation; from ballet classes as toddlers to the arbitrary violin or piano lessons in elementary school, our childhoods are riddled with the arts. Sometimes fun, but often not. And yet, art sticks with us. We branch out, perhaps leaving music for debate, or dance for film. We stick with them even if we have bad memories, because the arts are our opportunities to explore.

In modern culture, where we have so little time, art offers unparalleled freedom.

TeenTix knows this well. The 2024 Teeny Awards presented the 20 Under 20, incredible and driven teens in arts and culture spheres all across the Puget Sound. The recipients of this award were nominated by TeenTix’s over 140 Arts and Community Partners, ranging from theaters such as The Fifth Ave, Seattle Rep, and ACT, to leadership and public speaking incubators such as The Bureau of Fearless Ideas, Powerful Voices, and Speak With Purpose.

The day of the Teeny Awards, On the Boards’ auditorium was filled with celebration. The space was full of applause as each recipient, no matter how shy of a public speaker, was uplifted and spotlighted. Nominators and mentor figures joined their students onstage, sharing anecdotes and painting moving pictures of each teen’s hard work, impact, and character. The Award winners themselves also shared words; many thanked friends and family, shared their personal journeys, or talked of their plans for their futures. After the speeches, more than a few tears had been shed.

Teeny Award winner Toa Ghatak. Photo by Brenda Palma.

Often, creatives and visionaries take their own work for granted—they don’t see their passions as something worthy of acclaim. I’m sure for many of the recipients, the Teeny Awards helped to change that. Their hard work and dedication not only to their craft, but to their communities, serve as a powerful reminder that voice, wisdom, and drive are not limited by age.

As a young creative myself, seeing the wide range of representation, vision, and personality across the group of recipients was deeply inspiring. The Teeny Awards are as important for the audience as they are for the youth artists. In the theater, there was a sense of anticipation. I could see myself in each speech, and I couldn’t help but feel fueled and driven. In a society where youth are asked to wait for the future to come to them ten, twenty, or even thirty years down the line, seeing young people take action was fulfilling in a way a teen coming-of-age-movie simply cannot be.

Teeny Awards trophies designed by the TeenTix New Guard. Photo by Brenda Palma.

The Teeny Awards isn’t just a well-deserved spotlight and an upcycled trophy designed by the New Guard (however amazing those trophies may be). Award winners also receive a $250 stipend, opening opportunities for them as they step into their professional creative careers and beyond. TeenTix has also partnered with the Meany Center at University of Washington, to offer recipients of the award a spot at a Teen Think Tank with spoken word artist, writer & librettist, and cultural strategist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Meany’s current artist-in-residence. Think Tank participants will engage in community art-making and collective visioning for the arts world as youth leaders.

TeenTix’s support of these remarkable teens is unique—though many of the recipients hope that more organizations will begin to uplift creative youth. Toa Ghatak of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas phrased it like this: “I'd love for the scene here to become a staple of Seattle—TeenTix becoming a name as natural as the Space Needle. The ability for youth to experience art and culture through TeenTix and Seattle's culture is a unique one, one I hope to see spread.”

She’s not the only one with this hope. In the end, that is the goal of TeenTix: to create a youth community driven by a passion for the arts.

Lead photo credit: Teeny Awards winners. Photo by Brenda Palma.

This article is the second in a series sponsored by the education research organization foundry10 as an extension of their support for The 2024 Teeny Awards.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 5 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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