Emmy Submission: Art in Real Life


Entry Category

39/New Approaches: Arts, Lifestyle and Culture


#ArtIRL (Art in Real Life): Sights and Sounds of Public Art

Production Company

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs

Date content was originally made available for viewing

May 2019

Original URL(s): 

This mural may jump out at you

#JusticeForJunior mural unites this community after tragic loss

These gentle giants are taking over a massive forest

These butterflies will ‘steel’ your heart

Is this art or vandalism?


What does public art look like in your community? That’s the question PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) asked its national network of teen journalists to explore for its series, #ArtIRL (Art in Real Life): Sights and Sounds of Public Art. The project mobilized a cadre of students to investigate the function of public art in their towns and culminated in a series of stories that reflect the depth and breadth of diversity in art around the country. SRL and the NewsHour intentionally partnered with Instagram to produce these stories by teens for teens on the social platform where they spend most of their time. 

As part of the partnership, the news team at Instagram shared with SRL students best practices for storytelling on the platform, held weekly online office hours, and hosted students at Instagram’s office in New York to learn from the news partnerships team and participate in their Story School. The series resulted in local reporting from more than 60 middle and high schools. 

With support from NewsHour’s digital team, SRL was able to publish five unique public art stories from different communities across the country — rural and urban — on NewsHour’s IGTV. The made-for-Instagram videos focus on public art that’s making a local impact. From a mural memorializing a 15-year-old Bronx teen who was a victim of gang violence to wooden giants in Kentucky to an abandoned rural town transformed by graffiti, each public artwork reveals the values and experiences of the community in which it was created. 

Art is the perfect lens to view what’s going on in the nation’s towns and cities, and Instagram was the right platform for SRL journalists to share their stories with other teenagers. Teen journalists are creating compelling and informative content all of the time and there are few media organizations that create this kind of space for young people. Public media is one of them and Instagram’s support demonstrated the opportunities available to think differently about news and younger audiences.

SRL’s goals were to infuse Instagram with original news reporting created by teens, see how SRL’s model of youth-driven storytelling translated to authentic audiences on Instagram, and leverage our partnerships with public media mentors at local PBS stations to help students produce meaningful community art stories that stations could publish and share with their audiences, which they did on South Florida PBS, WNET (in New York City), KET (in Lexington, KY), SCETV (in Columbia, SC) and KPBS (in San Diego).

The engagement of local stations was key, with many of them airing students’ stories on their broadcasts. For SRL’s middle and high school students, these are audiences that they otherwise would never have access to if it weren’t for programs like SRL and the support of public media that is empowering them to create well-informed content that is also fun and relatable.