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Creative Fuel: A Youth Summit Hosted at Mia

Creative Fuel attendees participated in an artmaking workshop that gives space to explore important youth identified contemporary issues.

Project: Creative Fuel: A Youth Summit at Mia, was a free day-long event created by youth, for youth—exploring how art and creativity can build empathy and bridges that lead to societal change.

Project Organizers: Mia Art Team (teen staff group); Mia Art Team Alum Project Advisory Team (recent Art Team alum supporting the project); Crystal Price (teen and community associate); Matthew Ramirez (youth summit project liaison)

Division/Department:Learning Innovation

Other Mia Staff Involved:

  • Alice Anderson, Manager of Audience Research and Impact: Session Lead
  • Jeanine Pollard,Research & Project Manager, Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts: Session Lead
  • Michaela Baltasar-Feyen, Head of Strategic Communications and Converged Media: Public Relations
  • Steven Hall,Corporate and Foundation Relations Specialist: Fundraising
  • Shawna Lee,Visitor Experience Weekday Team Lead: Guest Artist

Community Artists and Organizations Involved:

  • YMCA Best Buy Teen Tech Center: Co-visioning Photographer & Session Lead
  • Courageous Hearts: Co-visioning Session Participant
  • Minnesota Alliance With Youth: Co-visioning Session Participant
  • The St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN): Co-visioning Session Participant
  • The Science Museum of Minnesota (SMM): Co-visioning Session Participant
  • Franklin Library/Teen Tech Center: Co-visioning Session Participant
  • Hope Community/Teen Tech Center: Co-visioning Session Participant
  • The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS): Co-visioning Session Participant
  • The Southeast Asian Diaspora Project (SEAD): Co-visioning Session Participant
  • Hennepin County: Co-visioning Session Participant
  • Claudia Rankine: Co-visioning Guest Speaker
  • Akiko Ostlund: Community Artist & Session Lead
  • Electric Machete Studios: Community Artist & Session Lead
  • Alison Bergblom: Community and Guest Artist
  • Weisman Art Museum, WAM Collective: Session Lead
  • Minneapolis Parks and Rec Board, Youth Design Team: Session Lead
  • Climate Generation: Session Lead
  • Walker Art Center: Session Lead
  • Springboard for the Arts: Session Lead
  • Hennepin County: Session Lead
  • Science Museum of Minnesota, KAYSC: Session Lead
  • Minnesota Museum of American Art: Session Lead
  • H. Adam Harris: Panelist
  • Ricardo Levins Morales: Panelist
  • Ashawnti Ford: Panelist

Project date(s):March 2019 – October 2019

Audience/user:Young people in the Twin Cities ages 14-20 years old, and adult leads of youth serving organizations.

Project goals:Deepen youth and community relationships, ensuring greater accessibility of the museum as a community resource.

Project description: In leading up to the event, Creative Fuelwas a spirit of curiosity that took many forms at various stages of the preparation and planning process. Art Team, Art Team Alum and youth-serving organizations across the Twin Cities were involved leading up to, and the day of, Creative Fuel: A Youth Summit Hosted at Mia. The planning phase and process spaces included: an info session for Twin Cities organizations that serve youth; weekly program lead meetings; a youth co-visioning session; consistent communication with involved Twin Cities organizations; and bi-weekly sessions with Mia staff (Art Team, Art Team Alums, and other Mia staff).

In May of 2019, youth in leadership from around the Twin Cities co-visioned the possibilities of what a co-created youth summit could be at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The youth summit co-visioning session at Mia, hosted by Art Team and Mia adult leads, was an especially informative moment in the process. There were over 40 youth in leadership present from 10 different youth and community organizations throughout the Twin Cities, as well as emerging youth photographers documenting the event. Young people explored and imagined the opportunities of a day-long youth summit in the Twin Cities. Youth explored their vision for the future through art-making and small group discussions. Young people also identified contemporary issues important to them and considered creative ways to address them. Big picture to concrete ideas were shared at this event, as was reflection on and consideration of the question, how we would know the day was a success?

Claudia Rankine, Jamaican poet-essayist and author, was featured as a guest speaker at the end of the youth summit co-visioning session. She conversed with youth about her work, her take on social issues and youth voice. Participating youth were able to ask questions and share quality time with Claudia as they wrapped up the session.

Following the youth summit co-visioning session at Mia, the following themes were identified by Art Team and Mia adult leads: community; self love; and creativity and community.

Project Schedule:

  • March, 6th, 2019: Info Share with interested museums and organizations
  • May 9th, 2019: Youth assembled to co-create vision; final partners confirmed
  • June- July 2019: Working sessions to solidify goals, format, content
  • August 2019: Final Lineup Announced
  • September 2019: Marketing/PR push
  • October 2019: Youth Summit on October 5th, 2019

Youth Summit Program Schedule:



  • Registration and Breakfast with Art Team and other Mia staff
  • Video Synthesis Exploration with Shawna Lee
  • Book-making with Alison Bergblom

Keynote Panelists

  • Ashawnti Sakina Ford, She/Her: As a teaching artist specializing in social justice and theatre, Ashawnti has traveled the world building community and understanding among people from all backgrounds.
  • Ricardo Levins Morales, He/Him: Ricardo creates visual art, writes and teaches in support of social justice movements. He was born in Puerto Rico and lives in Minneapolis
  • H. Adam Harris, He/Him: An actor, director, teaching artist, and cultural equity consultant. He works at the intersection of theatre, education, social justice, and community engagement.

Creative Fuel panelists H. Adam Harris, Ricardo Levins Morales, and Ashawnti Ford share their perspectives on youth-developed questions.

Breakout Sessions

  • Creating a Community of Practice, WAM Collective
  • The Internet Knows, YMCA Best Buy Teen Tech Center
  • Community Mapping Creative Fuel, Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Minneapolis Parks For All: Youth Design and Policy, Minneapolis Parks & Rec Board, Youth Design Team
  • Climate Future: Using Storytelling to Share Your Story, Climate Generation
  • Building Bridges: Empathy Through Storytelling, Mia’s Art Team and the Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts
  • Art Team Interpretive Walk, Mia’s Art Team

Artist-Led Workshops 

  • Zine Making with Artist Akiko Ostlund
  • Screen Printing with Electric Machete Studios

Lunch, Tabling and Social Hour

    • Food catered from the Wedge Table

Tabling organizations:

  • Courageous heARTS
  • Centro Tyrone Guzman
  • Saint Paul Neighborhood Network
  • Mia’s Art Team
  • Global Exchange Recruitment- Mia
  • WAM Collective

World Cafe Sessions Mini-conversations: where do you get your creative fuel? Lead by Art Team members and adult leads from the following organizations,

  • Springboard for the Arts
  • Hennepin County
  • Walker Art Center
  • Minnesota Museum of American Art
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art

Large Group Closing and Action Sharing Next Steps led by Art Team

A note from Mia (printed in daily agenda handed out at registration):

Thank you for joining us at the museum today. For this youth summit—we focused on four core themes you will see woven into the day: creativity, community, self-love, and future. As a community we recognize we must take creative risks if we are wanting to address the pressing issues of today.

We hope this summit fuels your Creative. We hope you share your own perspectives, and keep your ears open to others present. The work that happens today will impact how we continue working towards ensuring youth voices are heard and present in the museum.

— Mia’s Teen Programming Staff & Art Team, Mia’s Teen Employees.


  • Be Present
  • Honor people’s pronouns, gender identities, and personal identities
  • No one knows everything, together we know a lot
  • Take Space, Make Space

Evaluation tools: Throughout the process of co-creating and implementing this project, we were able to incorporate evaluation from many angles of the project through reflection circles, interviews and pre/post-surveys, from a variety of stakeholders.

We held space for reflection at the community partner informational session in March 2019, the co-visioning session in May 2019, and the post-youth summit Art Team and Mia Adult lead reflection circle in October 2019.

In the registration process a survey asked the following question: What’s the biggest issue of today? 54.7% of youth attendees, 13.2% of youth presenters, 20.8% of adult leads, and 11.3% of adult presenters responded, highlighting these issues:

  • Addiction
  • Child Neglect/Abuse
  • Consumerism/Disparities/Equitable Access
  • Global Warming/Climate Change
  • Gun Violence
  • Immigration
  • LGBTQ Rights
  • Mental Health
  • Racism/Discrimination/Civil Rights
  • Sexism
  • Social Justice
  • Water Quality

Surveyed summit attendees reported that they had learned of the summit in the following ways:

  • From Mia staff
  • From Art Team
  • From youth program I attend
  • Social Media – Facebook + Instagram
  • Via a colleague

Adult program leads, Crystal Price and Matthew Ramirez, reflected on the event and its purpose in June 2019, in an effort to revisit goals and direction of the project;

  • Build trust and authentic collaborative relationships with internal and external partners.
  • Bring new young people to Mia, deepening youth and community relationships with an Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) lens and priority.
  • Create a comfortable space and environment at Mia, for youth and community members, promoting Mia as a “community commons”.
  • Stay open and humble to sparked ideas from community organizations, developed from Creative Fuel, allowing the initiative to lead to continued authentic collaboration initiated by community partners.
  • Art Team develops and deepens ownership for their impact museum-wide, and receives recognition and further exposure throughout the process, promoting youth voice and ongoing youth/teen opportunities and collaboration.

After the event, Art Team shared these ideas for continued youth-focused events:

  • Keep doing youth-led art walks in the galleries; potentially at Mia-organized events like Rated T, FREE Open Studio, etc
  • Host a Story Stitch at Mia, focusing, in part, on future exhibitions and connecting them to personal experience
  • Continuing to connect and build off the spirit of Creative Fuel and art as a catalyst for social change– linking to the idea for other youth/teen programming. Connecting to it and reframing it.

Resources used: 

  • 400 hours of staff time in the following departments: Advancement, Learning Innovation and Audience Engagement
  • Approximately 100 hours of community partnership, in preparation and the day of the event
  • General classroom supplies, screenprinting, collage materials, etc.
  • $10,500 was the original budgeted cost. We went under budget about $1,000.



Creative Fuel attendees created collages, focused on storytelling and self expression, with Mia artist, Akiko Ostlund.

What worked? Overall the event was a success. It cultivated new partners and created a model to work on future events. Youth leading, with adults as support, worked well. Overall the sessions were a success and offered participants a wide variety of options that aligned with their interests. The panelists were a huge hit with youth and adults; there was clapping, cheering, hooting, hollering, snapping, etc., while they listened intently to what the next question was asked by the youth to the adult panelists.

Notably, there were unique ways the “mood” was set for the event from the moment participants walked through the door at the 24th Street, second floor entrance with music and activities: Art Team created a playlist; Mia staff member Shawn Lee led a video synthesizing art experience; snacks, registration and interactive art-making were also available. These “mood setters” were well received and gave Creative Fuel attendees a space to situate themselves and relax before the panelist conversations, which kicked off the event.

The energy of people coming in via the main steps and hanging out in the fountain court was fun for everyone. The interactive artwork was engaging everyone, this included: sewing artwork into handmade books, interactive technology art, and drawing faces on a collective mural. The music playlist was good energy for the creative space.

For Art Team, the planning and preparation phase helped to further develop their confidence, decision-making, and positive communication skills. Art Team and the Art Team Alum Project Advisory Team spent several weeks leading up to the day of Creative Fuel on October 5th, preparing with Mia staff to co-facilitate a community mapping workshop, an empathy focused-workshop and an interpretive art walk in the galleries.

The gallery walk overall went well, and there is a desire to do more of them. The youth wanted deeper conversations, and it is recommended that Mia offers more training on facilitating youth conversations about works of art.  Art Team was well informed of what to do and when to do it. Overall they felt like all their time was well spent.

What were the challenges? Individually some felt like we could have done a better job of advertising it. People went to the wrong entrance a few times, but figured it out as there was an Art Teamer stationed there to help. Some stated that the schedule had some confusing wording, while others had positive feedback about it as a useful resource.

The full day seemed a little long; many groups had to leave to go do something else. Perhaps having it during the week for a full day event and partnering with schools, it could be easier to plan for attendance and could be a different way to approach a school field trip.

Art Team member Grace Teeters co-facilitated the panelist conversation with questions around important issues of today for young people.

What was surprising? Overall, it was unexpected to see which workshops were more heavily attended than others, since they were all designed and created based on co-visioning session identified themes. For example, the printmaking workshop was extremely popular, while the climate change workshop ended up with no attendees. This revealed that even when topics are important to young people, there may be some choices that young people will make over others in the moment, or the day of an exciting event with so many options. Something we could do to avoid having workshops without attendees could be to restructure roles of our teen staff and make game prompts to encourage attendance at all sessions.

It was surprising to an Art Teamer to have another young person not know why you would write pronouns down on a nametag. It was told to an Art Teamer’s friend that the event didn’t have a ‘campy vibe’ and actually was really fun.

Some youth from organized programs, like the Science Museum of Minnesota, were paid for their time to attend. This likely increased attendance. Many youth were not paid to attend, and came in groups affiliated with youth-serving organizations across the Twin Cities. The attendance goal was 250, and attendance was 225. For a first year event, this was a positive turn out.

Process Breakdown: In an effort to address every component of the project, please find remarks below from Crystal Price, Teen and Community Associate at Mia, on how the event was an overall success and where we can improve.

Planning Process

    • What worked:Youth were involved in every step of the process, especially Mia Art Team and Alums. Evaluation, documentation and reflection were guiding principles throughout the process.
    • What can improve: Youth from throughout the Twin Cities were involved in the co-visioning session in May 2019, and the day of the event, October 2019. There could have been additional planning meetings and relationship building spaces for youth leads to connect leading up to the event, and after the event.

Youth and Adult Co-facilitation Model

    • What worked:Youth were given space and the opportunity to develop life and professional development skills. Art Team youth leads prepared with Mia adult staff for the weeks leading up to the youth summit, allowing strong relationships and confidence to be built before the sessions.
    • What can improve: Youth could have met with co-adult leads before the World Cafe sessions, in promoting more connection in the sessions. The young adult day’s facilitators could have been accompanied by the adult leads. The project leads did not give any remarks, in the hope of giving Art Team the space to lead the event for youth, by youth. Art Team did an excellent job facilitating the event, though It is now clear, that some remarks from the adult leads would be a helpful tool in support of our youth voice and project mission.

Art Team Shifts

Art Team member Lluvia Proa-Granillo leads Creative Fuel participants on an interpretive artwalk in the galleries of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

  • What worked: Art Team members worked half days, with the idea in mind that they could be part of the summit the other half of the day as an attendee with friends, and/or just to be on their own time enjoying and experiencing the event.
  • What can improve: With the half day shifts, some Art Team members felt like the team was not fully connected, as they would have if they were all working the entire day.


Registration and Breakfast

    • What worked: This was in an open fountain court area of the museum that lent itself as a fun space to hangout and get settled as the event got started. A light breakfast was served, featuring brownie treats, vegan and gluten free health bars, coffee, juice and water. The brownies were the quickest snack to run out.
    • What can improve: There was a mix up on the registration list, which slowed down the process. Also, many youth arrived at the same time, overwhelming the staff at the table. The registration table was not big enough to lay out all the pre-registered name tags. This would have improved the flow of the process.

Video Synthesis Exploration

    • What worked: This was part of the day as attendees entered and exited the large group opening and closing conversations. It was an interactive video exploration activity, provided by Shawna Lee. Shawna is a Mia staff member, who creates video synthesizing art as a passion, and she brought that passion to the event. It was very cool to highlight a Mia staff member and their passion in this event for young people. Shawna was very good at keeping a balance of answering questions, engaging with youth and letting them explore the activity on their own.
    • What can improve: We had to leave Shawna’s equipment unattended for portions of the night before and the day of. Although nothing happened, I would have liked it to be watched and guarded the whole time set up.


    • What worked: This book-making activity was available at registration. The book pages and cover were the youth summit brochure- agenda and information, artworks and blank pages co-designed by Art Team and adult project leads. It was a cool design that provided a sketch tool for the day.
    • What can improve: This could have also been a workshop session, as I am sure there would have been people interested in learning simple book-making techniques and this would have given more time to attendees to choose to do so.

Keynote Panelists

    • What worked: The panelists were a diverse mix of artists and activists, in the sense of identities and artistic disciplines. Being from the local community, the panelists were able to connect and inspire young people in a more intimate and connected way. The panelists engaged the crowd very well, and intentionally connected their work to youth and the themes of the day.
    • What can improve: The panelists were adults, and in the future we could find youth artists and activists to highlight.

Breakout Sessions and Workshops

    • What worked: The art-making, Zine and Screen-printing were very popular. The youth and adult lead, co-facilitation model, worked well, allowing youth and their advocates to compliment each other and work together.
    • What can improve: There were some sessions with very low attendance, and one session with zero attendees. To help spread out attendance and make sure that the sessions are fairly attended, we could do a pre-registration model. We could also have Art Team members spread out to support attendance in sessions where needed.

Lunch, Tabling and Social Hour

    • What worked: The lunches were very convenient and locally purchased. There was plenty of food for all attendees. Youth were able to comfortably spread around the museum in a variety of spaces, creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere at the museum for our youth.
    • What can improve: We had tabling as part of lunch and hoped this would be a chance for people to connect, network and share resources. The layout did not lend itself for people to get lunch and walk through the tabling area in an intuitive way. In the future, the tabling layout can be designed to be sure to better flow into the path of attendees.

Large Group Closing and Action Sharing Next Steps

  • What worked: This was a nice way to wrap up the day and allow attendees to be heard, and identify their action steps for creative solutions, drawn from the conversations in the world cafe sessions.
  • What can improve: This could have been better attended. It seemed that some  attendees left after lunch sometime, which made this a smaller crowd. As Simona mentions in her feedback below, maybe there could have been more incentive to close out the day with a dance party, or some kind of celebration.


Quotes and feedback post the event:

“We repositioned the script to work when the original MC for the day was sick, and felt like we were doing ‘good’. We kept the vision on track to what was executed. There was plenty of good food that was well labeled. Wayfinding was done well and went smoothly. There was a good amount of people who attended. There was great audience participation. Art Team MC’s did great! People were not overwhelmed.”
-Art Team Post-Creative Fuel Reflection Conversation

“Relationships were built. People had opportunities to share their resources. Art Team was amazing; they showed leadership and were able to talk about important issues. An attendee shared with me that they noticed how much is happening in the area and a need for more collaboration. A question that emerged for adult attendees was: How do the youth program providers collaborate with youth, and for youth? My Community Mapping group was awesome in action. They were nervous, yes, but they asked great questions of the group. One thing I wish I had done more of was talk about how to close the activity. We also were surprised by how many non-teens were there (we had program leaders from MMAM, Walker, Parks & SMM plus the lady from Hunter… and one teen :), so the focus was less about having teens share their resources and more a thoughtful time to think about community.”
-Alice Anderson, Manager of Audience Research and Impact- Mia, Session Lead

Creative Fuel attendees contributed to a collective collage of shapes and faces.

“As a museum education professional, I really valued my time at Creative Fuel. It was so clear that the teens who planned it were incredibly intentional about every aspect of the day, and that was evident in the participants who attended as well. I loved seeing the museum dedicated as a reflection and ideation space for young people for a whole day – it really felt like the whole place was ours, which made the enormous museum feel very cozy! The highlight of the day was attending a session led by Art Team members on community mapping. The facilitators were direct in their instructions, knowledgeable about the workshop, and created a lot of space for participants to process their prompts and talk with each other. It created a really open space for exchange, and remains a project I think about regularly. Additionally, I think added details like providing lots of food, and keeping a teen focus while remaining inter-generational were strong and valuable additions.

Anything in its first year will have kinks to work out, but I think overall Creative Fuel was incredibly successful. One thing I would have loved to have seen were more youth on the keynote panel, a social element at the end of the day for teens like a dance party or communal dinner, and teen designed evaluation interventions at the event. As a World Cafe session leader, I would have loved more time to prep with the Art Team member I led the session with. Overall, it was a great event and I’m looking forward to attending next year!”
-Simona Zappas, Youth Programs Coordinator- Walker Art Center, Session Lead

“The speakers. They were amazing and inspirational! Overall, I felt the program really elevated and represented POC voices and youth. It was a wonderful community to be a part of.”
-Anonymous Attendee, Feedback from post event reflection survey

“The World Cafe group size was a little large. My group was 17 total which made it difficult to have a deep conversation about current issues and ways we can respond to them through our creative fuel.”
-Anonymous Attendee, Feedback from post event reflection survey


Youth participated in an interpretive digital design workshop.

At Mia: It was successful at deepening (youth & community) relationships and created greater accessibility of the museum as a known community resource. Many of the youth serving organizations wanted to partner with us and figure out a way to do more together.

This youth summit hoped to fuel curiosity—to connect and explore the historical collections as relevant tools for addressing contemporary issues. We saw this event as a way to help us better understand how to communicate our content in a more dynamic manner. This summit was the perfect opportunity to listen and share new perspectives on what our communities can do as a collective whole in the cultural sector and beyond.

We hoped to further our connections with the youth living in the neighborhoods surrounding the museum by continuing to partner with outside organizations and finding new ways to ensure youth voices are heard and present in the museum. We observed and heard from both youth and adults that this type of programming was desired and everyone wanted more of it.

Ultimately with Creative Fuel, we also have hoped to inspire and challenge adults and youth community leaders to consider how youth voice and perspectives inform their work in the community and the cultural sector. If they do not, what could we start doing? Why might this enrich our work and be important?

In the museum field: 

Why a Youth Summit? As the youth summit was an idea born of conversation with Mia’s Art Team, the project was an effort to create more youth voice and agency in the museum space. There is a lack of youth voice in the museum, in the sense that youth generally do not see themselves or find the space relevant to themselves. 

Art Team’s work revolved around creating more teen accessibility at Mia, through teen focused events, artmaking opportunities and exhibitions. As Mia is a community resource, we have been interested in providing a truly collaborative opportunity to invite youth in leadership positions throughout the Twin Cities to co-design/create this day-long event on October 5th, 2019. We envisioned this event as a platform for Twin Cities teens to come together and connect in a safe space around important current and pressing issues.

We hosted a co-visioning session with youth who work at the museum, youth at partner organizations and their adult leads. The main takeaway from the co-visioning session was they wanted to have FUN. Creativity was the way these issues could be approached in an engaging way. The museum sparks creativity, so leaning into that, we developed the name ‘Creative Fuel’. As a community we recognized we must take creative risks if we are wanting to address the pressing issues of today. In order to tap into your creativity, you need to tap into your emotions. That’s what we did.

To other museums embarking on a similar program consider the project goals, purpose, potential positive and negative outcomes. In addition, the museum is a place to fuel creativity. Whether it’s making art or tackling a pressing issue of today, or trying to find a solution to a problem at work, making time to come to the museum, look and think critically, your creative solutions authentically flourish.

Public: Youth contribute–all the time–to our cultural sector. Youth voice is missing from so many aspects from city planning, to mass transit, to politics. It is critical for adults and young people to work together, making relevant and informed decisions for our communities.There are many efforts toward youth led decision-making processes, and the youth summit hopes to have inspired more collective effort in highlighting youth voices.

The youth summit has worked to both make visible and highlight our young people, as well as encourage and model creative collaboration across Twin Cities organizations. This project could not have been so meaningful and rich if it were not for all the organizations, adult leads and young people willing to come together, align values and show up, dedicating time and energy to the project.

Moving forward, Creative Fuel, as a spirit of creative problem-solving and critical thinking, hopes to continue to inspire collective and collaborative youth programming across organizations. Let’s continue to reimagine and vision alongside young people, as they bring invaluable perspective to public and cultural spaces. Young people are worth it, bring precious wisdom and deserve to be heard.