For this Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and today we bring you Sasha Lee’s interview with Denise Gray of the MOCA Education Department. Here Gray talks about her work as an educator and her role in MOCA’s apprenticeship program, which is designed to encourage high school students to engage with the local art community by attending talks, visiting exhibitions, and curating their own events. This interview was originally published on January 9, 2009.

Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Sean MacGillivray.

Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Sean MacGillivray.

Sasha Lee: Can you talk a little bit about your position at the MOCA and the various projects you oversee, maybe your favorites?

Denise Gray: There’s one particularly that comes to mind, and that is the high school apprenticeship program. The program has been around since the 90’s, it started out because we originally had a high school program for students interested in having conversations about art with their peers. It ended up being successful and students wanted to continue the dialogue, so MOCA decided to formalize that program, resulting in the MOCA apprenticeship program. We conduct a pretty vigorous interview process–with anywhere from 80 applicants for 12 spots usually. It’s highly competitive; consisting of students who have identified themselves as interested in pursuing a career in the arts, whether as a curator or as an artist or educator. The program is great because its very hands on. We use downtown as a resource, so for example today we’re going to the art walk. We use the library at REDCAT and visit exhibitions and attend events related to art, so as to compare and contrast the different kinds of art that’s out there. Sometimes, we’ll even have artists who are exhibiting at the MOCA or invite other artists to do special programs with MOCA apprentices.

The apprentices also host events. In 2009, we’re going to have our seventh annual teen night. It’s an amazing opportunity for the apprentices to take the lead and create events for their peers. Usually there’s a student art exhibition that they curate, they bring out live entertainment, along with other activities. It’s like this big art party for teens; we don’t turn away the adults but it’s definitely designed for teens–creating a real ownership for them over the event. Last year, related to the Takashi Murakami exhibition, we collaborated with TOKYOPOP[publishers and distributors of Manga] to hone in on the Japanese pop culture connection–we had a photo booth, young performers, etc. The event was called Eye Candy.

Last year they actually had a slumber party at MOCA! This group had bonded so much that they wanted to have a sleep over at the MOCA. They were hanging out at 2am in the gallery–and the challenge was intentional insomnia–so to stay awake, we hung out with security and explored behind the scenes of MOCA.

Read the full interview here.