Manager of Teen Programs Sean Beauford wants kids to know they don't need permission to create | Backstage | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Manager of Teen Programs Sean Beauford wants kids to know they don't need permission to create

Name: Sean Beauford, Bloomfield
Title: Manager of Teen Programs, Carnegie Museum of Art

Tell me about the programs and the work they involve.

One is the Youth Art Initiative, a group of 10 students that meets weekly. They could be visiting different departments, learning about different jobs, touring galleries, brainstorming ideas, planning what they’ve come up with, and just getting comfortable with each other, building relationships. They held an event three weeks ago with four musicians and a DJ, so needed to schedule sound checks, get contracts, coordinate on things like decorations, catering, audio technicians, security.

There are three internships this summer, geared toward creating opportunities and awareness for minority students and to hopefully impact the diversity of museum staffs in the future. I’ll be the liaison between them and the staff, helping them figure things out for themselves and empowering them to take advantage of the opportunity.

What got you into this work?

I started independently curating exhibitions and installations with projects at Wood Street Galleries, 707 [Penn Gallery], August Wilson [African American Cultural] Center. Not having a formal art background led me to a lot of different collaborations, some with schools. There were projects sometimes for one day, sometimes over the course of six months. I developed a rapport of working with youth and being good at that led to me working here — my approach to curating, the audience I was attracting, who I was, being relatable.

What drew you to galleries to begin with?

I had a group of friends who were really creative people, but their events would usually be in a bar or a club. I wanted to give them an opportunity to showcase their work. I enjoy spending time in galleries, and I used to go to the Downtown Gallery Crawl; I’d rather spend my Friday night there than on the South Side. My real inspiration was community engagement. I was going to spaces and not seeing people that I identified with in these spaces, so I wanted to bring my community into them.

What do people need to feel a space is for them?

It starts with letting people see themselves; inviting them personally and having a program they identify with or relate with. Having intentional introductions, then letting the program run as it normally would, helps.

Do you have a highlight at CMOA so far?

The teen event because it was all their idea. Throughout the year I tried to get them to understand they could do what they wanted, they didn’t have to wait for permission. I think that was the first time they realized they could create their own … their own anything.

What do you look forward to?

A youth advisory board and teens having even more input. Giving teens participating in programs the chance to consider all the youth that visit, not just them, so they can focus on how to make the museum better and more approachable for all teens.

Do you have a favorite work of art here?

For me personally, a 2017 work of Kerry James Marshall, “Untitled (Gallery).” It’s a picture of a Black woman standing in front of a picture of a Black woman in a gallery, she’s posing in it. He’s being intentional in putting Black figures in museums and institutions, reflecting that representation.

For visitors in general, I really like things that people engage with, that without any context they enjoy, like Dan Graham’s 1991 “Heart Pavilion.” People take pictures in front of it, they go inside, they interact. It’s not something that you walk past, or stop and look for 10 seconds then move on. It’s something that involves you. I want art to do that. 

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