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Six years ago, when her best friend left their Pocono Mountains home for art school in Pittsburgh, Scottie Flora tagged along for the cross-state adventure. “We’ve been creating a comic book together since seventh grade,” says Flora, the primary writer behind Chaos Friends, the pair’s ongoing episodic tale about a cast of oddball characters forced to live together on a fictional island. Fresh out of high school at the time of the move, Flora didn’t know the Steel City or anyone in it. Now lead gallery attendant at The Andy Warhol Museum, she soon found a job—and a community—at the home of all things Warhol.
Q: What drew you to The Warhol?
A: I didn’t want to work in retail or fast food. I put out feelers thinking an art museum would be an engaging place to work and was lucky enough to land a part-time position at The Warhol. I was immediately blown away by how interesting everyone was. My colleagues are painters, sculptors, playwrights—and they’re as nice as angels to boot. I’ve made so many lifelong friends at the museum.
Q: Did you know much about Andy Warhol?
A: I knew of his Campbell’s soup cans and Marilyn paintings. I am very into David Bowie’s music, and Bowie was a fan of Warhol.
Q: No doubt you know a whole lot more now. Do you have favorite tidbits you like to share with visitors?
A: I’m always learning; that’s part of what makes the job interesting. There are so many paths with Warhol. He was not only a great artist but also an incredible businessman. And he was an enigmatic person. People know he had a taxidermy Great Dane named Cecil, but he also had a peacock and a lion. In his Time Capsules, he saved a real mummified human foot.
Q: What questions about Warhol do you get most often from visitors?
A: People are often interested in Warhol’s death because there’s a lot of gray to it. He was shot in the 1960s but died in the hospital in 1987 after routine surgery. But even that has layers to it; he died after a private nurse left for the night.
Q: What’s it been like to be on the front lines during the pandemic?
A: When we first reopened, I was terrified. We still didn’t know all that much about the virus. It was hard not to know what to expect when you went to work. It’s a very unique time; everyone is learning, and everyone here has helped out however they can. Co-workers are very important to your job always, but especially right now; we’re all still feeling it out together. The day to day with visitors has been more about enforcing the rules for safety.
Q: Has it changed the way you view your role at the museum?
A: Before, I might have thought, maybe they don’t need me. Now I know they absolutely do. Most people who work at the museum have desk jobs and can work from home. Now front-line staff are essential to the museum—they can’t be open without us. It’s a unique position within the museum because we’re the ones on the floors with visitors experiencing what’s working or not.
Q: You’ve found community at The Warhol?
A: I’ve been lucky to find my friend group here. It’s an accepting environment. The education department does a lot of outreach with teens and hosts programs like LGBTQ+ Prom. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community myself, it’s really great that the museum has made space for teens to come in and feel safe and just be themselves. Even though I’m older, I’ve figured myself out while working here.
Q: Are there experiences with visitors that stick with you?
A: I really like helping families and being there when kids experience art in person for the first time. I’ve sent kids to the Silver Clouds gallery and they say, “Woah, this can be art, too? Not just paintings on a wall?” That kind of interaction is really enriching.
Q: As a writer, does the museum help feed your creativity?
A: Absolutely. Many of the friends I’ve made here are artists in their own right, and being around them makes me think in new ways. Learning more about the way Warhol worked has made me think more about the business aspect of art and comics. It’s not enough just to have an idea.
Q: What makes Chaos Friends special?
A: It’s fun and represents 14 years of our shared work, between [my best friend] Nick and me, who is like a brother. We started it during bus rides in seventh grade, and it’s been amazing to watch Nick grow as an artist. We’ve restarted it a few times, but it includes a lot of the same characters, and we always have a big backlog of ideas—it’s more figuring out what joke goes where.
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