This summer, the Bronx Museum is extremely pleased to sponsor one of its longtime Teen Council members, Nikky Gonzalez (Bard High School Early College ’16), at Skidmore College’s Pre-College Studio Art Program this summer. The program offers special workshops and hosts visiting artists, providing access to state of the art studio facilities, special panel discussions, and museum visits.
Before Nikky heads to Saratoga Springs for the program this month, the Bronx Museum caught up with her to learn more about her experiences with Teen Council, her advice to teens interested in pursuing arts-related careers, and her ambitious goals for the future.
You’ve been involved with Teen Council since 2012, as a member for two years and the first-ever Teen Fellow this past year. How did you get involved, and what kept you coming back?
I heard about the program through an activities listing at my school—it sounded interesting, since I liked art and live close to the museum. I was interested in art, but was afraid to pursue art because the idea of the “starving artist” is scary, but I like that it [Teen Council] shows all the opportunities—I liked the opportunity to learn everything that I can do [working in the arts]. Curating the exhibition every year and the tour around the museum to meet staff were always my favorite parts.
What would you say is the most valuable thing you’ve learned during the program?
The most valuable thing…personally, the steps to curating a show, from picking the art to putting it up. It [Teen Council] got me interested in art history. My goal is to be a curator. My favorite memory is probably the first year, seeing the submissions for art [for the Teen Council-curated exhibition]—it was funny, but people were getting emotional and excited.
What’s the biggest challenge you had to overcome as a group?
Learning how to work as a group. Everyone has different opinions and visions, especially on important tasks like curating the teen exhibition, so just learning how to work together.
What has been your favorite Bronx Museum exhibition? Your favorite Teen Council exhibition?
I really liked Here I Am: Photographs by Lisa Leone (http://www.bronxmuseum.org/exhibitions/here-i-am-photographs-by-lisa-leone, which the museum did a couple of years ago. I wrote a big research paper on the Bronx Museum for school—it was their way of getting us to explore what we might want to do for the rest of our lives. It was a big learning moment for me, seeing an exhibit that reflected the history of the Bronx and the birth of hip hop—seeing all these familiar celebrity faces was cool. This year’s Teen Council exhibition, Alienation and Acceptance (http://www.bronxmuseum.org/exhibitions/teen-council-alienation-and-acceptance), is my favorite theme I think because it’s so fitting with what’s going on in society. It’s the most relevant to today, and I think because of that, we got a bigger response to submissions.
What advice would you offer to teens—or anyone, really—interested in pursuing a career in the arts?
I would say take advantage of meeting new people, and staying in contact with those people. So much of the art world is about networking and making connections. So I would say meet as many people as you can, put yourself out there—that’s something that Teen Council really helped me with, because I was pretty shy but being in this program with a bunch of strangers and being forced out of your comfort zone was a good experience. Some people came into the program with their friends, but Edwin and Ellie [Teen Council Educators] really made sure we sat with people that weren’t our friends.
What was the process of applying to the Skidmore program like?
It wasn’t that stressful, because I was applying to college at the time so I had all the materials ready. Ellie and Edwin gave me a lot of information about the program and the application process, and they wrote recommendation letters for me. My only concern was that I had never been away from home for that long, and getting my parents to agree, but once they saw what a great opportunity it was, they were onboard.
What will you be doing there?
I’ll be taking Intro to Painting and Intro to Drawing. I have some background in drawing and sketching already, because my high school offered lots of programs in the arts, and I used some of my work when I applied to Teen Council. Recently, I’ve gotten into watercolor.
What’s next for you?
After the program, I start college at the end of August. I think I want to study art history. Recently, I’ve gotten more interested in Renaissance painting—not just the meaning of the paintings, but the artist’s practice and intent.
In your opinion, what sets the Bronx Museum apart from other NYC museums? Why is it important to have a contemporary art museum in the borough?
Wow, that’s an interesting question! I haven’t really thought about it before, but I guess I really like that the Bronx Museum focuses on Bronx history. Making the public feel welcome, and showing art that reflects them [the community], is really important, and free admission…the fact that the museum realized paid admission could be a barrier to people in the community, and then did something about it…I think building a relationship and communication between the museum and visitors is important.
Big thanks to Nikky for taking the time to sit and chat with us. We’re so proud of you and can’t wait to see what you accomplish this summer, and in the future!