Local teenagers open pop-up museum to display their struggles through art

Media Credit: Kiana Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Pieces displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Teenagers, a pop-up museum in Bethesda, Md., showcase the problems teens face like alcohol and drug use.

The Museum of Contemporary Teenagers is the product of a final project assigned by a supportive teacher who wanted his students to take their art to the next level.

Students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School used their senior anthropology projects to curate a pop-up museum in Bethesda, Md. with 30 exhibits, a mural wall and 150 “selfie” clay sculptures of students at the school. Students said the museum, which opened Thursday, is their way of describing the challenges teenagers face – like the pressure of getting into college, body image issues and the constant fear of missing out.

The free museum, located at 7756 Wisconsin Ave., describes what it’s like to be a teenager through the murals, individual pieces made from multimedia and a live performance stage.

Camille Devincenti, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, created an exhibit about body image. The piece includes real clothing from the store Brandy Melville, which is notorious for having clothes that is made in only one size to fit all.

Devincenti made a doorway that looked like a storefront, but it was too small to walk through to help people understand that brands often perpetuate unrealistic body issues. Behind the door, phrases like “fashion kills” and “if you don’t fit, you don’t fit in” were painted on the wall.

“Girls my age have shared experiences that make them feel bad about themselves,” Devincenti said.

The pop up highlights different themes on different dates as its open Thursday through Saturday this weekend and then again Dec. 14 through Dec. 16. On the weekdays, the museum is open from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays it is open from 1 to 5 p.m.

David Lopilato, an International Baccalaureate anthropology teacher at the school, was the driving force behind the exhibits that make up the museum. But his original project was not intended to become an art installation. Lopilato said he loved his students’ ideas so much he wanted to convert the material into a museum so other people could experience the work.

Lopilato said he procured about $2,500 in funding through various donations, found an available venue and ultimately gave the students a medium to express their feelings about life as a teenager through the pop-up museum.

Two seniors created an exhibit called “Trigger Warning” to memorialize the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and bring attention to the national issue of gun violence.

They sketched pictures that resembled a child’s drawing and under the pictures were lines describing the interests and hobbies of the children lost in the shooting. The exhibit also features an iPad playing audio recordings from actual school shootings so people could listen in and understand what the victims went through.

Many pieces throughout the exhibit involved drugs and alcohol, while some others showed porn websites and vaping devices – like a Juul. Students said these displays are honest representations of what they are doing in time spent outside the classroom.

The current exhibit ends with the “Tunnel of Fear,” a long passage with different questions written on the surrounding four walls. Questions about anxiety, depression and other mental health issues were plastered on the walls and visitors were asked to write their answers on one side of the wall.

The exhibit won’t be a permanent one, but Lopilato said he wants others to be inspired by it and to see it spread because the issues faced by teenagers are different everywhere.

“Teen culture is so different everywhere,” Lopilato said. “We want it to travel across the country and for it to pick up momentum where it goes.”

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