Carnegie Magazine OnlineNavigation bar Contents


Playing at The Warhol

by Jessica Arcand

Andy Warhol’s art has a strong appeal to children. One expert in early childhood education said recently that for a child, going through the galleries of The Andy Warhol Museum was like "walking into a giant storybook." There are vivid colors, and large paintings of simple objects like those in storybooks—huge flowers, enormous soup cans, large floating silver pillows you can touch, and bright yellow wallpaper printed with fluorescent pink cows. It’s a world that is open to a child’s natural sense of play, and it encourages adults to play as well.

Warhol’s use of humor and irreverence sharpens the attention of adults. It opens up the psychological space needed for seeing new ideas, and it spurs imaginative thinking. When being playful we can think out of the norm, focus irreverently on one thing over another, and juxtapose totally different objects and ideas. Play is important to the imagination and problem-solving world of many adults—whether computer scientists, artists, or business strategists.

As an artist Warhol played continuously, and especially with technology. His art installations occupy entire rooms, such as the Rain Machine that uses three-dimensional picture film and gallons of falling water. His Silver Clouds is a room full of floating mylar balloons filled with helium and oxygen. Children and adults love it.

In 1983 Warhol’s Zurich art dealer, Bruno Bischofberger, asked him to make a series of paintings for children. In response Warhol created his "Toy Paintings." Warhol chose for inspiration simple subjects such as monkeys, parrots, fish, dogs, pandas, circus clowns and toys from his own collection. The paintings were hung low so children could easily see them on the specially-printed fish wallpaper that he created. It was a playful exhibition that captured a wonderful sense of a child’s world, and reflected the childlike freedom of experimentation that everyone can enjoy.

Having family fun and playing at The Warhol is easy to do in March and April.

•Warhol’s Toy Paintings on fish wallpaper, with some of the original toys he worked from, are on display at the museum beginning on March 11.

•A Family Guide Pack will be available to help families explore the whole museum at their own pace. There will also be something for older kids to do on their own.

•The Weekend Factory always welcomes families from 12 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Named after Warhol’s studios in New York City, the Factory offers a chance to join in playful exploration of ideas and techniques used by Warhol. Family members can take black-and-white self-portraits in a photo-booth, create a toy, learn to silkscreen, take a screen test, and talk to museum teachers.

•Carpatho-Rusyn Easter Egg

Extravaganza A Special Easter Family Event—Saturday April 4, 12–6 p.m.
Warhol’s own family heritage and the Carpatho-Rusyn tradition of specially painted eggs inspires this event. Visitors can paint eggs in the rich decorative style of Rusyn Americans, see demonstrations, meet members of the Warhola family, participate in workshops, see performances with traditional dances and costumes and take special tours.

Jessica Arcand is curator of Education at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Copyright 1998 Carnegie Magazine  All rights reserved.  Email:

Back Issues