Thanks to a new program that launched this fall, teenagers now have the opportunity to build a more personal relationship with Lincoln Center while deepening their connection to, and understanding of, the performing arts.

Many of the teens in the newly formed Student Arts Council at Lincoln Center are already actors, singers, dancers, or musicians. But this program allows them to further explore their love of the arts by joining committees that teach them about the business side of the entertainment industry.

Members' motivations for joining are as diverse as their backgrounds: Some are already looking to pad their professional resumes, while others are simply enthusiastic to take on roles that give them greater independence. All of them are eager to establish their autonomy as they move toward adulthood.

"They're very interactive; they want to do, and they want to learn by doing, rather than by having things handed to them," said Mali Gaw, who originally proposed founding a council just for teens. A longtime Lincoln Center supporter, Ms. Gaw is also the founder of Lincoln Center Kids (for arts lovers ages 2–12) and Lincoln Center Young Patrons (20s–early 40s)—the two groups that will ultimately be bridged by the new Student Arts Council (ages 13–19).

The Student Arts Council was initially intended to keep families connected with Lincoln Center. Ms. Gaw noticed that LC Kids was losing touch with some families as children aged out of the program. Parents began asking for ways to keep their teens engaged, and she decided it was time to create a solution.

But the mission expanded when Ms. Gaw surveyed the community and discovered that local teens had an intense interest and investment in the arts that had been going untapped. Rather than mimicking the benefits-based membership style of LC Kids, the Student Arts Council grew into a program that would allow young adults to get more actively involved with the bigger picture of the performing arts and explore business management.

"We found they not only had interest in learning about the arts, but also about learning how the arts are produced. I think that sort of depth of curiosity and the desire to engage in a deeper way surprised us, in a good way," Ms. Gaw said.

The Student Arts Council began to take shape when a core group of teens met in April. Since then, membership has expanded to 40—many of them originally part of LC Kids. The rest are new to Lincoln Center or were introduced to the council by friends. Secured through a $500 gift, membership entails benefits like performance outings and events where teens can socialize with one another, see intimate shows, and meet artists.

Their first formal meeting was held on September 18, followed by a performance outing on October 7, when they went to see the New York Philharmonic's sold-out concert, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

The Student Arts Council is currently aiming to expand membership by reaching out to generous underwriters who may supplement memberships (through scholarship or subsidized fee programs) for those who cannot afford annual contributions. The ultimate goal is to give teens from all backgrounds equal access to Lincoln Center's prestigious campus and programs—as well as the opportunities afforded by learning about business management directly from the illustrious performing arts organization's staff and network.

"Our hope is that the teens develop a relationship with Lincoln Center and all of the art forms represented here—and that they'll seek arts-going opportunities throughout their lives," said Sonia Chou, Membership Assistant. "This group functions not only as a discussion forum for teens on the subjects of the arts, arts education, and the arts in society, but also as a form of professional development in the areas of budgeting, event planning, marketing, outreach, and operations."

The Student Arts Council features an innovative structure, with three subcommittees: Programming will work to plan an exciting calendar of events; Finance & Operations will assess artist and location costs to arrange budgets and ticket pricing; and Outreach & Community Engagement will manage a website and create a social media communications plan.

To accomplish their ambitious goals, teens will receive guidance from LC Kids parents and Lincoln Center staff. Funds raised by the Student Arts Council will go toward Lincoln Center Education.

For more information about this new program, contact Sonia Chou, Membership Assistant, at [email protected].


Teen contributor Cara Chang is a member of the newly formed Student Arts Council.