11 April 2019

To mark the beginning of Youth Week NSW 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) has revealed report findings that its youth-led contemporary visual art program GENEXT positively impacts its participants. The report found key findings relating to important youth issues like confidence, sense of belonging and overall well-being.

In 2018, UN Youth Australia’s Youth Representative Consultation Report found mental health to beat a crisis point amongst young Australians. The MCA’s report, titled By young people, for young people, reveals that 96 percent of GENEXT participants feel the program offers a safe and supportive environment for young people. GENEXT attendees are aged between 12 to 18 and come from diverse backgrounds: 31% identify as LGBTQI+; 31% speak a language other than English; and in 2018, 42% were from Western Sydney.

The report also shows that youth-led contemporary visual art experiences are important for the Australian arts sector, with more than half of the attendees saying that their experiences at GENEXT have inspired them to pursue a career in the arts and culture sector.

MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said that when the MCA first launched GENEXT in 2005, the Museum had little idea of the impact it would have. Now 14 years on, GENEXT has attracted almost 30,000 attendances by young people, introducing so many to the remarkable world of contemporary art.

“The MCA’s GENEXT is the longest running peer-led visual art program in the country, where young people can experience exhibitions together as well as creative learning workshops led by artists. We now know that the program plays a key role in developing the next generation of leaders and innovators,” Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor said.

The MCA’s GENEXT events are designed uniquely to be peer-led by the MCA Youth Committee with support from the MCA Young Creatives Coordinator and Artist Educators.

MCA Youth Creatives Coordinator and 2018 Churchill Fellow, Jo Higgins said, “The survey tells us that peer-led learning is essential. Each year, the GENEXT program is led by a new Youth Committee and with this comes a renewal of new perspectives, new energy and new ideas that helps to keep GENEXT relevant and reflective of the experiences of young people today.”

Some major findings include:
Three quarters (74%) of GENEXT participants said that the program helped them to positively express their identity;
• The report results show that 8 in 10 attendees feel that GENEXT positively impacts their overall well-being, and 66% feel the program positively impacts their confidence;
96% of the attendees agree that GENEXT offers a safe and supportive environment;
93% attendees feel that it’s important that GENEXT remains to be peer-led;
• GENEXT attendees are more likely to pursue a career in the arts and culture sector with more than half saying that their experiences with the MCA have inspired this pursuit;
Over three quarters (77%) feel that GENEXT has had a positive impact on their overall well-being.

In 2018, the MCA commissioned research agency Patternmakers to work with the MCA Young Creatives Coordinator, Jo Higgins, and past and present MCA Youth Committee members to co-design an evaluation framework, collect new data and co-author this report. This included interviews, focus groups, observations and a survey of 1,176 MCA audiences under the age of 32.

The full report – By young people, for young people, 2019.

The executive summary – By young people, for young people, 2019.

GENEXT is the MCA’s flagship program for young people aged 12 to 18, attracting almost 30,000 attendances since its first event in 2005. Taking place four to five times a year, it is an atmospheric festival-style ‘museum-takeover’ event delivered by young people, for young people, featuring live music, performances, art-making and interactive experiences entirely inspired by MCA exhibitions and contemporary artists. The program takes place throughout the Museum, including the galleries, and offers the over 600 young people who attend at any one event, a safe parent- and teacher-free space to connect with ideas and each other for three hours, after hours, from 6 to 9pm on a Sunday evening.