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It’s a familiar Pittsburgh story—a talented child grows up here but, recognizing that greater opportunities lie beyond, leaves western Pennsylvania to pursue success someplace else.
Entrepreneur Mark Cuban went to Texas. Actors Michael Keaton and Jeff Goldblum went to Hollywood. And, of course, there’s Andy Warhola, who had to go to New York to become “Andy Warhol.”
Despite being a self-proclaimed “Pittsburgh homer,” Milo Speranzo did the same thing.
“Pittsburgh has had a long history of talented young individuals leaving the city,” says Speranzo, an Air Force veteran who built a successful career in tech and is now a top marketing executive at Dell. “Myself included, a lot of us have had to leave.”
But unlike many other famous native sons and daughters, Speranzo returned, joining the ranks of “boomerang” Pittsburghers who reestablished their lives here after building their careers elsewhere. And through a business relationship he’s established with The Andy Warhol Museum, he’s hoping to ensure that the next “Andy Warhol” doesn’t have to leave as well.
Speranzo is a linchpin for one of the museum’s most important program and sponsorship partners. As Dell’s head of North America marketing, the energetic 45-year-old Pitcairn native contracted with The Warhol’s boutique production studio—part of its Pop District initiative—to produce digital media content that would promote Dell’s brand to a younger audience through the museum’s social media channels. The partnership with Dell, valued at around a half-million dollars, provides a critical source of financial support at a time when the museum is building The Pop District programming, much of it focused on youth workforce development.
Through a fellowship program at The Warhol, young aspiring filmmakers and digital marketers create content for the museum and partners like Dell, which is then pushed out onto platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
Scroll through any of the short TikTok videos about Warhol’s art and legacy and you’ll see teens and 20-somethings working on Dell laptops. They’re not Dell commercials, per se, but more like stories about Andy Warhol with some subtle Dell marketing.
Speranzo, who meets regularly with the content creators to discuss their ideas for promoting Dell products, is quick to point out that Dell has benefited as much from their business relationship as The Warhol. Dan Law, associate director of The Warhol, says Speranzo has been essential to the success of the partnership because he understands how to bridge Dell’s corporate needs and The Warhol’s goals to develop the next generation of “creatives.”
“The Warhol has been just an absolute blessing for me personally because it’s allowed me to intertwine that personal passion of helping these communities.”–Milo Speranzo
“Milo talks a lot about reinvestment and how important it is, and particularly how to reinvest with workforce in mind,” Law says. “He was picking up on all of our components—the creative placemaking and public art component, our workforce component, but also the campus expansion and our vision to really take over the eastern North Shore as an arts and creativity hub.”
Building healthy communities that support young people has become a personal passion for Speranzo since he returned to western Pennsylvania in 2020.
Raised by his grandparents and a community of “surrogate caretakers” in the struggling railroad town of Pitcairn, Speranzo left for the Air Force after high school, rarely looking back. But he remembers how important certain townspeople were to his upbringing. There was Joe, the butcher, who provided free ham sandwiches to him and his feral group of friends—many of whom Joe also employed. There was Jim Lang, a grandfather to one of Milo’s best friends, who would feed the boys and take them on excursions to the mountains when he had a day off.
“We didn’t have any money,” Speranzo recalls, “but we always knew that if we were in town, we were kind of taken care of.”
Speranzo is now trying to be that same kind of person in his community. In April, he opened the Vault Coffeehouse inside a former Citizens bank branch in Pitcairn that had been empty for the past decade. He’s invited local poets and writers to share their words at readings, and the walls are decorated with custom wall art created by artists he met at The Warhol.
The Vault filled a prominent void in Pitcairn’s struggling commercial district and provided work opportunities to residents, says Jimmy Rullo, the borough council president.
“I think the coffee shop is the start of revitalization,” Rullo proclaims, if a bit grandly. “Little communities need something like that to revitalize themselves.”
Speranzo is setting his sights on duplicating the coffeehouse within The Pop District, planning a second location in vacant street-level space adjacent to The Warhol. Law says it will not only signal more success for the development of The Pop District, but it also fills a practical, daily need for someplace where visitors to the North Shore can go when The Warhol’s cafe is closed.
“The Warhol has been just an absolute blessing for me personally because it’s allowed me to intertwine that personal passion of helping these communities,” Speranzo reflects. “Some of them are to the point where they’re ready and they’re willing, and the people are amazing, and they want the help. They just need somebody to care.”
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