For Teens

Teen Portrait Competition

Between the ages of 13 to 17? Live in the U.S.? Make art?

Those who answer “yes” to those questions can enter work in the Teen Portrait Competition of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has opened a “call for entries” for its Teen Portrait Competition. Artists between the ages of 13 and 17 may submit portraits to the juried competition in the medium of photography via email to . The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2020. The two grand-prize photos will be printed and displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in 2020.

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.

“Our main goal for this project is that it be ‘for teens, by teens,’” said Rebecca Kasemeyer, director of Audience Engagement for the National Portrait Gallery. “We want the competition to be available to all teens.”

Entry applications will be submitted via email, and the finalists will be chosen by the National Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council. The jurors for this competition will include the Teen Museum Council, Teen Programs Specialist Caitlin Blake, and a guest juror.

The competition accepts submissions of photographic portraits only, though digital editing is allowed. Entrants should email their portrait as a JPEG attachment, and include their first name, last name, school grade, and zip code in the body of the email. Please also include an artist statement, of 140 words or less, about the submitted work. Two winners will be 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. Winners and honorable-mention photos will be featured on the Portrait Gallery’s website.  

Only one entry per person will be accepted.

More information about entering the competition is available on the Rules & Requirements page.

Additional questions can be sent to

young woman standing next to her self-portrait
Teen Portrait Competition winner Tiffany Vargas / Photo courtesy Paul Morigi, 2016

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

Ever wonder what it might be like to work in a museum? Are you curious about American history or pop culture? Do you have a passion for art? Want to create fun activities for your friends and other area teens? Enjoy working with social media? If you said “yes” to any of these questions, join the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery Teen Museum Council.

TMC is a year-long commitment that meets once a week (September-May) on Wednesdays during the school year. Applications to the program are open to D.C. Metro area teens between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. Teens must be enrolled in high school and be in good standing. 

Please note: The application period is now closed.


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

For Teens, By Teens

Portrait Pop-Ups

What does our Teen Museum Council have to say about the Portrait Gallery? Join us in an interactive and lively museum program—you might encounter an art activity, a discussion, or a spontaneous conversation. Pick up a program at the F or G Street desks to find out where we will be in the museum.

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

Paint Ball

The annual Paint Ball, created by the Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council, is a teen-only night at the museum with dancing, 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