The MCA’s Teen Creative Agency is a rigorous program where you interpret and make sense of art, yourself, and your world through the lens of your own creative questions and passions, and with contemporary art as a resource.


At the MCA, we believe young people can serve as experts of contemporary culture and lead others in exploring what art is today. We seek to add to the voices visitors hear within our galleries. In this program, your voice would be one of those. We also want to support you in your creative pursuits and help you become a full participant of the MCA and other cultural institutions.

What do TCA members do?

As a TCA member you explore your own ideas about art and then share those ideas with the public.

To do this, you:

  • Meet weekly with two Lead Artists, other teenagers, MCA staff, and local and visiting artists
  • Identify interests and questions and use these to explore art through a variety of means, from looking, researching, and discussing to art making
  • Place contemporary art within the context of what is going on in the larger world
  • Practice public speaking and teaching, experimenting with techniques to engage others and help them reach their own conclusions
  • Lead public talks for MCA visitors about the art on view in the museum
  • Experience first-hand what it takes to organize and present public programs at a major contemporary art museum by working with staff to lead public talks, plan workshops and one large MCA teen event, and serve as an MCA youth ambassador

What kind of commitment does the program require?

As a TCA member you need to be interested and able to commit to meeting every Saturday at the MCA and communicating with program leaders during the days between Saturday sessions. You are encouraged to stay involved with the program for two years. Over the two years, your commitment is structured along four 5-month sessions. At the start of each of the sessions (which last five months), you commit fully to that five-month period. Throughout each five-month period, program staff meet with you to offer feedback and chart progress toward your goals. A specific theme structures each five-month session and the projects that members work on. Within that theme, your interests and those of your fellow members help determine the artists, art, and issues explored. You may begin leading talks in the galleries during the third session.

Can anyone join?

Anyone who is 15–19 can participate; you must be 15–18 to apply. The museum will select up to 11 members this year to join the TCA. The program is best for creative young people who are in some way interested in the arts (from music to writing to visual art to theater or dance or any other form, whether you prefer to create or observe). It is critical that applicants can commit each Saturday afternoon to this program in addition to time during the week (checking email for program updates, independently exploring themes discussed on Saturday, etc.). It is also best for those who have some basic capacity or the potential for public speaking, and who are interested in connecting with a museum. The TCA is for teens who enjoy asking questions and making sense of things. You need not be an artist.

When and where does the program happen?

As a TCA member, you meet weekly on Saturdays from 1:30–4:30 pm, and we expect you to do additional work to advance your creative goals on your own between these weekly sessions. The program meets at the MCA, with planned regular visits to other art organizations, galleries, and artist studios in Chicago. You get to experience all of the MCA: the galleries, theater, studios, meeting spaces, and other public and behind-the-scene areas. During the third and fourth sessions talks take place on Saturday afternoons. They may also take place on Tuesdays during the MCA’s Community Free Day.

What’s in it for me?

Being a TCA member comes with both tangible and intangible benefits.

Tangible benefits

  • Service learning credit as structured through your school system
  • Stipend to cover transportation costs and support the TCA members in being active cultural participants and MCA Chicago ambassadors
  • Visits to artists’ studios
  • Visits to private art collections
  • Organizing and hosting a culminating teen event at the MCA
  • Free tickets to select MCA performances
  • MCA store discount
  • Free admission to the MCA outside of TCA session dates

Intangible benefits

  • Work with artists, peers, and MCA staff to collectively explore art and your ideas
  • Explore the other side of being an artist—discussing art, looking at art, learning about it, organizing programs for others
  • Get to know how a museum works
  • Gain valuable public speaking skills and organizational skills
  • Develop your civic engagement skills, become a more active participant of our democracy as you help connect museums and contemporary art to our society
  • Be intellectually respected among your peers and people beyond your peer group
  • Have an important public role in an established museum

Is there a cost?

There is no fee for being a member of the TCA. We expect you to contribute commitment, passion, ambition, high-quality effort, and time.