For Teens

Teen Portrait Competition

The exhibition scheduled for Spring 2020 has been postponed.

Check out the finalists of the Teen Portrait Competition here

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery opened a “call for entries” for its Teen Portrait Competition. Artists between the ages of 13 and 17 were invited to submit portraits to the juried competition in the medium of photography.

Local teenagers designed the competition for their peers under the supervision of the museum’s education department. The competition was designed to introduce teenagers to the concept of representing identity through portraiture.

The finalists were chosen by the National Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council, a group of twenty teenagers from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia who engage with the Portrait Gallery’s collections and create programming for their peers.

Two winners were chosen: one in the 13- to 15-year-old category and one in the 16- to 17-year-old category. The two winning photos will be displayed in the museum in spring 2020, outside the Outwin Boochever Competition exhibition.

Questions about the competition can be sent to

two portraits one a young woman the other a young man
Showtime by Chiemeka Offor and What I Am, What I Think by Sofia Gress

Teen Opportunities

Portraits Alive!

Come see our Portraits Alive! Teen Ambassadors breathe life into portraits in our collection! Our Teen Ambassadors spend six weeks at the National Portrait Gallery conducting research and participating in writing and theatre workshops before performing monologues on a tour of the museum. Interested teens should apply to participate in the Department of Employment Services’ Mayor Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program.

The Portraits Alive! program provides DC teens an opportunity to work at the museum during the summer.  The program takes place over a six-week period, typically late June through early August, for teens ages 16 - 17. Teen Ambassadors learn about portraiture by conducting research about an individual depicted in the Portrait Gallery collection, participating in writing and theater workshops with a local playwright, and creating monologues about their subjects. Costumed to look like their chosen sitters, they perform their speeches in front of the portraits for museum visitors. This interactive tour truly brings the portraits to life!

Students are selected through a partnership with the Department of Employment Services’ Mayor Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program.


Teen Museum Council

The National Portrait Gallery invites you to join its Teen Museum Council. Teen Museum Council is an intensive program for D.C. area teens (grades 9-12) who are interested in developing leadership skills, learning about themselves through portraiture and art, and making the Portrait Gallery an engaging place for teenagers. Teen Museum Council, also known as TMC, is a program for teens by teens to foster more interest in museums and create a community for local teens.

Throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, TMC members have the opportunity to work on a variety of activities such as creating teen-centered events, participating in workshops and training sessions with museum professionals, and gain experience at the museum while developing creative and critical thinking skills. Teen Museum Council is a year-long commitment that meets once a week on Wednesdays during the school year.

Please note that TMC will meet virtually for the fall semester over Zoom.

The application period closed on August 31, 2020.



Group photo of the Teen Museum council - a young diverse group of 13 students

For Teens, By Teens

Teen-Led Tours

What does our Teen Museum Council have to say about the Portrait Gallery? Join us for a special tour of our museum as teens share our collection from their perspective. Check our calendar of events (linked) to find out when you can catch the next one!

Two teens in the museum galleries, presenting a video portrait of musician Esparanza Spalding

Teen Night

The annual Paint Ball, created by the Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council, is a teen-only night at the museum with music, food, photo booth, arts and crafts, and many more activities. Teen Museum Council plans this event during the academic year.

Group portrait of teens at the Paint Ball gathering