May 19, 2020

MCA Denver's Teen Leadership Programs Go Digital 


Like the rest of the world, this spring our teen programs were faced with the arduous task of reimagining how we approach our work in order to achieve goals we had set well before the effects of COVID-19 crept in. 

Both Point of View and Failure Lab moved their weekly meetings to a digital forum and continued to work on their projects via Zoom and other online platforms. By the end of the semester, they pulled together two publications documenting their collective experiences and the work of their peers. We are so proud of the energy that each of the participants put into the production of these publications and are thrilled to share them with you. 

Vibrant and colorful balloons fly over a black and white crowd. The words NO BUSINESS DURING PLAY HOURS are superimposed upon the images.
Cover by Gabrielle French from Failure Lab

Failure Lab took teen art exhibition submissions and produced No Business During Play Hours, a digital catalogue featuring the work of high school students from the Denver area in response to the theme of Work vs. Play. Failure Lab interns describe their curatorial vision as the following: Teenage life is inherently tumultuous. It is a time of transition, change, and growth, especially in the chaos that has emphatically defined 2020. Academic standards rise incessantly as we bridge the gap between youth and adulthood. But this coming of age is often turbulent and rarely clear. As we become adults, do we have to sacrifice what makes us young? Have we already abandoned our teenage youth in the face of social and familial expectations?

Together with support from staff, Failure Lab evaluated over 80 submissions, all with different styles, tones, and meanings. They curated a selection that best reflected their call into this catalogue. Initially this was set to be an exhibition installed in the Idea Box at MCA Denver; however, COVID-19 pushed the team into a digital presentation that is No Business During Play Hours

This catalogue was curated by MCA Denver’s Teen Leadership Program: Failure Lab. Curatorial support from MCA Denver’s Curatorial Assistant & Octopus Initiative Administrator, Krista Lauer.

2019-20 Failure Lab Interns are: Daisy Benitez, Desiree Howard, Eric Montes, Evelyn McSpirit, Gabrielle French, Iris Ruvalcaba, Jeremy Cashion, Kiki Dunn, Milo Martinez, Naomi Jaffe, Sanyu Kibuuka, Soah, Teo Patterson, Wilson Lenhart, and Zea Ramirez.

Artwork of blue and red people in the style of Keith Haring spill out of a prescription bottle. The word SONDERISM acts as a title in large red letters.
Cover by Skyler Kasnoff from POV

Under normal circumstances, POV brings together sixteen participants from across the Denver area once a week for a semester to connect with each other through contemporary art and ideas at MCA Denver. Due to the Stay-at-Home order this spring, more than half of the regularly scheduled sessions took place in a digital space using video calls, collaborative documents, and a lot of enthusiasm. 

Throughout the semester, POV partnered with local artists Emily Hope Dobkin of Betterish, Octopus Initiative artist Tya Anthony, Adán De La Garza, and Kevin Quinn Marchman of The Black Actors Guild. These local creative humans joined POV to introduce their creative processes and led the teens through exercises reflective of their individual practices. Our partner artists were instrumental in helping to pivot our programming to an online format.

The connections made to each other, local artists, and the museum sparked conversations and revelations, and inspired the work presented in this semester’s volume titled SONDERSIM

Spring 2020 POV interns: Aitana Peñalosa, Andy Guevara, Ariadna Juarez, Daisy Marquez, Felicia Winfrey, Jaxon Anthony, Maya Fuentes-Stanard, McCall Phoenix, Neva Wilder, Olivia Macleod, Polly Torian, Sandy Battulga, Sasha Kramer, Skyler Kasnoff, Stephanie Wittstruck, Tatiana Muñoz

Both the teen art catalogue and zine are available online in a digital format. Printed copies are available by request. Reach out to Senior Manager of Youth Programming Alex Jimenez | for questions on our teen programs or to request your copy.