The New Jersey State Museum is partnering with Artworks to present My Beauty is My Aesthetic Teen Expo, an exploration for teens to explore Posing Beauty in African American Culture. The museum has seen great success with its young crowds and adult crowds alike, but its focus has shifted to bringing in a more teenage audience.

Beth Cooper, Curator of Education at the New Jersey State Museum, said they have been thinking for a while about how to reach teens.

“We’ve been thinking for a long time about cultivating a teen audience. We’ve been pretty successful with our under five family audience and with our lectures for an adult crowd…But we hadn’t really done a lot for the teen audience,” Cooper said. “When we looked at this exhibit, it’s really an exploration of what beauty means and what beauty means in a cultural context and I think that’s something that really resonates with teens.”

The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections: “Constructing a Pose,” considers the interplay between the historical and the contemporary, between self-representation and imposed representation, and the relationship between subject and photographer; well “Body and Image,” questions how modern understanding of beauty has been constructed and framed through the body; and “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests,” which invites people to reflect upon the ambiguities of beauty, its impact on mass culture and individuals, and how the display of beauty affects how the audience sees and interprets the world and themselves.

“We thought this is a ripe topic for teens to explore in a kind of non-judgmental atmosphere where they can get together and explore these thoughts and ideas about beauty and aesthetics and culture,” Cooper said.

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 14th, Kenny Bullock, The Education and Community Outreach Coordinator at Artworks, will start the program by giving a lecture and tour of the Posing Beauty in African American Culture exhibition.

“We begin by planning a sort of walkthrough of the exhibit and me doing a presentation on beauty standards,” Bullock said. “Sort of asking the teens who will be attending, how they view themselves and their beauty and then we’re going to end it off with three local artists.”

Teens will be able to make different kinds of art and learn from each artist that comes on Saturday. The event will feature Nichole Towns, a Local Hairdresser who will teach about sustainable and healthy hair practices; Raven George, a painter and artist who focuses on painting African Americans, will talk about beauty standards; and lastly, Kara Alexander, an entrepreneur and artist jewelry maker who will do hands-on crafts with those attending.

Cooper explained that the New Jersey State Museum was excited to partner with Artworks. “We’re really lucky to have the artworks team help us plan this…So (Artworks has) brought on these three artists and we’ve kind of crafted it to be an exploration of the exhibit and the ideas of beauty but then also hands on art-making, which both organizations love to do,” Cooper said.

Bullock agreed. “This was a great way to create a connection between teenagers and the museum,” Bullock said. “It provides a space of conversation. During your teenage years, those are the pivotal years of growth, teens doing self exploration. You’re going through ups and downs, how you view your beauty. You’re hitting puberty, so you get the pimples, and not everyone knows how to gain access to materials and products that will help in those processes. So this moment is a moment for folks to come in a space together.”

Bullock explained that the expo hopes to teach teenagers to be confident in themselves and walk away knowing that they are beautiful.

“Just that beauty is however you see fit and be confident in who you are because everyone is beautiful. And not to let anyone or anything deter me from the idea that my confidence is okay, my beauty is okay, my natural hair or weave is okay. However, you would like to present your own beauty and however you look at beauty is your definition and that is okay,” Bullock said.

The expo is on May 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the New Jersey State Museum (205 W State Street, Trenton, NJ). This is a free event, but registration is required. To register, head over to this link.