Back Issues 





World Café at The Warhol                                                 

by Margie Romero

Chris Griffin, WYEP music director, packed a week's worth of work into two days when the popular radio program World Café came to The Andy Warhol Museum on June 28 and 29.  The event marked the fifth year that "A Week At the Warhol," which included live performances as well as dialogue between host David Dye and the musicians, was taped at the museum. Featuring five recording artists programmed by Griffin, the sessions will be aired on five consecutive days in July on WYEP, 91.3-FM, and almost 150 other World Café affiliates across the country. (Tune in to WYEP for exact dates.)

The programs included two tapings on Friday evening and three on Saturday afternoon. During these recording sessions each artist performed in front of a live audience in The Warhol's 100-seat theater. Later on Saturday, all five acts took the outdoor stage for the Fifth Annual WYEP Summer Music Festival. The free concert was held a block from the museum on the green space along the riverbank known as Allegheny Landing.

Griffin was pleased with the musicianship in this year's show. "This was a really incredible line-up for us," he says. For the broadcast, Raul Malo, formerly with the West Texas rock band The Mavericks, was in the spotlight with his Latin-tinged vocals. Patty Griffin, well loved in Pittsburgh, played guitar and sang cuts from her recent album, "1000 Kisses." Jeb Loy Nichols brought his blue-eyed soul with a touch of the islands. Blues-branded guitarist Corey Harris offered tracks from his new disc "Downhome Sophisticate," and the pop-rock singer/songwriter Maia Sharp performed songs from her just-released album.

For many in attendance the biggest thrill of the event was the chance to see World Café originator, David Dye, in person. "He's a Philadelphia radio legend," says Griffin of the WXPN DJ, who works out of a studio on the University of Pennsylvania campus. "David Dye does a fantastic job of interacting with his subjects. He's a phenomenal interviewer with a quick-witted music mind."

Dye has been broadcasting since he was a freshman at Swarthmore University in the 1970s and still lives in Philadelphia with his wife, a columnist, and their two children. Along with WXPN program director Bruce Warren, Dye launched World Café 10 years ago when he sat down with Bruce Coburn in a small West Philadelphia studio for a few songs and some low-key conversation. Now, a decade later, the program has more than 2,000 interviews in its archives, including World Café alumni Sarah McLachlan, David Gray, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Jewel, and David Bowie.

"One of the best things David does is listen. I think that's the secret of all good interviews. Listening allows the conversation to develop naturally," Griffin says. Griffin believes The Andy Warhol Museum Theatre is an excellent place to listen. "As a venue it's really good," he says. "The acoustics are right and it's intimate. The immediacy of whatever forum of music you're dealing with from the artist really becomes apparent because you are right there. 

Thomas Sokolowski, director for The Warhol, is pleased at the partnerships established through this project.  "We enjoyed working with our local partner, WYEP, and sharing insights related to Warhol across the nation through the World Café."

World Café airs its two-hour program on WYEP Mondays through Fridays. The first hour is broadcast from 5 to 6 a.m.; the second hour from 6 to 7 p.m. On Fridays, the entire program airs from 6 to 8 p.m. World Café is distributed by Public Radio International.

Next to the Art at The Warhol: Voices of Interpretation

The communication between arts professionals and arts patrons is one of the most controversial issues in the museum world today. Some people believe the art should speak for itself, with a minimum of accompanying signage. For example, Roberta Smith, writing in The New York Times about this year's Whitney Biennial, described the show's wall texts as "irritatingly patronizing." Others, however, believe insightful labeling can surprise regular gallery-goers and offer emerging viewers an additional way into a piece.

The Andy Wahol Museum has made a unique and decisive choice in its labeling project, which it calls "Diversity of Voice in Interpretation." 

Spearheaded by Curator of Education Jessica Arcand, the labeling project offers points of view from a wide range of community members about the life and art of Andy Warhol. Presented in short written texts of approximately 75 to 100 words, these personal perspectives are placed on the wall next to specific works of art.

According to Arcand, Voice emphasizes the many ways of looking at a work of art. "Contemporary art is often marred in the public's eye as elite and far removed from everyday experience, when in actuality much of the artwork created today is about the world around us," she says. "It is this relevancy that makes hearing the observations of those approaching art from their own experience so refreshing."


At first glance, Brillo Boxes sends a shudder through me: I hate to scrub pots and pans.  But like a good consumer, I buy Brillo pads because nothing works better on burnt macaroni and cheese.  I really love the yellow box.  Not because it’s a “3 cents off pack: that shade looks like the kind of packages linint the shelves of both my grandmothers’ kitchens.  They raised lots of children in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s in roomy brick houses in old Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  The white boxes conjure up the mood of the ‘50s and ‘60s: bigger and bolder like the “modern” kitchens where the shiny appliances were supposed to make the tasks easier.  But they still needed Brillo pads.

     Joyce A. Gannon, journalist and mother

We were having a fairly heady discussion about art, religion, and culture by the time we climbed onto the fifth floor and breathlessly approached the Brillo Boxes. There my thoughts wandered from connections between religious icons and pop culture to a small closet in my kitchen where I have a similar box, crumpled and rusty, stuffed between the Windex and the Comet cleanser.

In all my years of scrubbing with sponges, mops and steel wool, I have rarely stopped to notice the packaging. I just ripped the boxes open and started my work.  But these elevated Brillo Boxes show me that we are surrounded by art.  It lines the aisles of our supermarkets. It decorates our homes, It festoons our trash bins: pungent red, flashing yellow, telltale white.

My pantry is now a gallery and my chores interactive art.

Rev. Gail Ransom, East-Liberty Presbyterian Church

A major tool of philosophical research is the thought experiment-an imagined case that rhetorically inclines the philosopher to come to a certain conclusion.  Warhol’s Brillo Boxes functions as a thought experiment, posing the question: “What makes Brillo Boxes an artwork whereas its indiscernible counterpart, an ordinary box of Brillo, is not?” This method-the method of indiscernible counterparts-has become a frequent tool for framing problems in the philosophy of art.

Noel Carroll, Professor of the Philosophy of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Pittsburgh artist and musician Christiane Leach says this about  one of the most challenging works by Warhol, Oxidation, which uses urine as a medium:

"The progressive artist is one who is hungry to stretch all boundaries, heeding no calls of protest from the offended. The elements in and around the world are seen with childlike excitement as a playground for the creative pioneer. This kind of artist is ravenous to create new textures, and forms, sifting many times through the overlooked and the tabooed to find what is needed."

On a lighter note is the perspective of Dave Nelsen, CEO of CoManage Software, who offers his perspective on Silver Clouds, the floating mylar pillows that once adorned Warhol's Factory and now hover in their own gallery in the Pittsburgh museum:

"Welcome to Cyberspace, the physical incarnation. Like a snowflake, your visit here will be unique relative to every other. Your experience will be interactive, although you can determine to what degree. If you look carefully, you will see reflections of yourself. You may also see other people, but not in the same way they see themselves. When you leave, these moments will begin to fade from memory. The experience can be repeated, but cannot be replicated. So it is in cyberspace? and in life."

In the museum this inclusiveness of opinions by people of  all ages, races, backgrounds, and jobs helps raise the Voice of the community - and the level of communication between patrons and professionals. It fits the spirit of Warhol's time and also the spirit of the current time. Diversity of Voice in Interpretation furthers the museum's mission as a vital center that uses the art and life of Andy Warhol as a touchstone for dialogue and expression.




Back Issues 


Copyright (c) 2002 CARNEGIE magazine 
All rights reserved.