Taking the Leap: The Youth Advisory Group Pilot

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Tuesday 6 May 2014
Selina Anderson


This year we are piloting our first Youth Advisory Group (yet to be re-named by the young people involved – something snappier, more relevant, and ideally less formal). Thirteen young people who have previously been involved in our Youth Media Internships are using this year to plan and run programmes for the Gallery. Aimed at young people, planned by young people.


The purposes of the Learning Programmes team, the Educators, and the Advisory Group


Their interpretation of RESPECT, IMAGINATION and CHALLENGES – the values they set as a group

Being a pilot programme, we wanted to use young people who were already we knew through previous programming, as we wanted them to already be familiar with the Gallery and its processes. As they were the guinea pigs, we felt this existing relationship put us and them on safer ground. We could feel out this year, tweak things, and get their input and evaluations. Knowing we could offer them a safe and creative space to work in developing leadership skills and programming. I feel the reality is, a pilot is inherently ‘less safe’ for all involved than an established programme. I trusted these young people, and hopefully they trusted the Gallery, to use them in this experiment! Based on all our many inevitable learnings this year, applications will open up more widely next time around.

Overseas, there are existing models for youth committees at galleries and museums, so we are not inventing anything new. So while we have an idea of where these groups can end up in the long term, we were going in blind in terms of the short term – what did these existing programmes overseas do in their first year to get to that point? How much ownership did the young people have in the development of the values, goals and outcomes? How much staff planning time was this going to take?! Etc etc! All the while, wanting to create something that was unique and relevant to these young people, Auckland, and this Gallery.


Taking part in an ice breaker – searching for artworks then creating a tableaux

All these questions could only be answered by taking the leap. While this group of young people sit under the purposes of the Learning Programmes team – and the groups own purpose is to create participatory, collaborate, Gallery-based events for young people – within these parameters there was plenty of room to move and experiment.

So far, the members have set the values of the group. They are going to value: Imagination, Respect, and Challenges. They have set personal goals for the group (things within their control and not outcome based). They have researched overseas models and considered questions like:

  • Were the events planned by a youth committee or by the Gallery? 
  • Which events/programmes seemed to fit with our values? 
  • How accessible were these events? 
  • What type of audience were they trying to attract?

On top of the potentially heavy, overwhelming journey ahead, each meeting I try to get them involved in a Gallery programme so they are learning first hand what is possible here, what we already have on offer, and have fun! They have taken part in:

A Drop-in Drawing Session



Doodle in the Dark (one of our Gallery Games)



Kangaroo Crew





So far so good! They are a really enthusiastic, creative and inquisitive group, and I have no doubt through this process that they will learn a huge amount about not just the gallery, but about themselves as learners and people.

Next time I will talk more about what I have had to change and adapt through the process and not such a blow-by-blow account of what happens.