Is it commentary? Not really. Is it art? Likely. Is it hilarious and wildly popular? Definitely yes and yes.
The most popular word-of-mouth modern art attraction at the Walker Art Center has recently become the Walker Art Center Teens Art Council’s (WACTAC) Instagram page, a collection of intentionally absurd and generic memes and commentary. Run by Patrick Burns, the account has won over fans of all ages, even though it’s run entirely by teens.
“Everything posted on the account is 100% teen made! The @walkerteens account is just that, Walker Teens.” says Burns. “I like to use the account as a platform to say whatever pops into my head, even if it doesn’t loop back to the Walker or WACTAC.”
While the memes read as though they claim that everything is certifiably teen-made, there has to be some supervision, right? Simona Zappas, Youth and Community Programs Associate at the Walker says, “The Walker’s teen programming is built off the idea that if you trust teens’ authority and voice, they’ll do great work and that’s the ethos of the Instagram account.”
So, not so much intervention for quality control as guidelines and support? “When I onboard the new WACTAC cohort each year, the main instruction I give the teens on the Instagram is to use the question, ‘Would I be OK if a teacher saw this?’ as a filter.”
Would a teacher—or older art enthusiast—understand it is another story, like the reignition of young people’s infatuation with Doc Martens. “What can I say, they are nice shoes. What else can you buy at almost any mall that screams ‘I’m different!’ without standing out too much to the point of social interaction? Plus they go with anything.”
As is the present age of social media, with success comes a bit of celebrity. “It took a little bit for the account to really reach real life status, on social media I’m so used to seeing numbers and not realizing that those are people,” says Burns. “I think the moment that made me rationalize the accounts following was when I was at a coffee shop and was asked if I was Walker Teens. Also seeing so many Walker staff repost the photos really put things into perspective.”
Zappas agrees. “The posts have been a great catalyst for conversation on how to keep the vibe going, but also to remember that we want to support each new cohort in developing their unique voice for the account—that to me shows care for the teens regardless of the numbers. At the end of the day, I think we all just feel seen by the micro bangs post—myself included.”
To know: instagram.com/walkerteens