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Bridging the Gap
The Warhol’s Tresa Varner teaches CAPA students they can connect their education with a career in the arts.

Photo: Tom Altany
Tresa Varner says students and staff at Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) have been walking through the hallways in a happy daze, still overwhelmed by the contrast between their new downtown digs and their dilapidated former home.

Varner has been teaching students from CAPA for three years. It’s part of her job as assistant curator of education at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Until the new CAPA building was completed, students had to travel to The Andy Warhol Museum to learn about photographic silkscreen printing. Not only did it allow them to learn more about Warhol and how a museum functions, it also gave them access to printmaking materials and equipment their school didn’t have. Because most of Warhol’s art involved printmaking, hands-on access is important to understanding his artistic processes.

Students would come to the museum to look at and discuss Warhol’s artwork and then go to Artists Image Resource (AIR), a master printmaking studio on the North Side (within walking distance from The Warhol), to print in a professional artist’s studio. This is part of a long-standing partnership between a select few Pittsburgh Public Schools, The Warhol, and AIR. The goal of the partnership is to provide opportunities for students to work with professional artists in professional settings. Varner is an artist herself, and her studio is located at AIR.

Now, Varner, who was hired by CAPA as an adjunct faculty member, can show students a thing or two on their own fancy turf. And with the two facilities in walking distance of one another, she can easily get students to The Warhol for extracurricular activities.

Another happy side effect of the school’s relocation and transformation is the installation of a new studio that ends CAPA’s two-year printmaking hiatus and returns the subject to its core visual arts curriculum. The fully equipped studio is designed to integrate lithography, intaglio, and other traditional forms with the latest digital technology.

Varner, who has a master’s degree in painting and printmaking, is excited about getting her hands inky in the school’s new studio. She’s one of several professional artists CAPA brings in to teach its specialty subjects.

“ The printmaking that I’m teaching is really something that is taught in college,” she says. “I’m teaching them photographic silk-screen, and start to finish, they’re doing it all right there in the building. Everything’s digital, which is really amazing. There are colleges that don’t have this capacity,” she says.

The Warhol had already established partnerships with CAPA and Schenley High School, Warhol’s alma mater, and had built a successful program called Youth Invasion, an annual event organized, developed, and implemented by a production team of area teens that includes students from private, parochial, and non-city schools. But there’s always a core group of CAPA kids, who sometimes segue into internships at The Warhol to explore a specific interest—whether that is print-making, conservation, fund-raising, or other museum functions.

During Youth Invasion, the students take over the entire museum to stage a variety of activities, including a juried art show with works chosen by a museum curator. The top pieces are hung in the museum.

The Warhol’s educational programs encompass students from other disciplines as well. When the exhibition Without Sanctuary appeared at the museum, CAPA’s literary art students discussed racial lynching in America, then wrote monologues. Theater arts students from CAPA turned the monologues into plays, and the visual arts students created a huge, multi-paneled piece that served as a backdrop for some of the performed works.

“I’ve met some really incredible kids through this program,” says Varner. “I don’t see them as average students. They’re incredibly creative and very self-motivated for their age.”

Many of the students had to push themselves to develop their artistic abilities because they did not receive any formal art training prior to attending CAPA. CAPA’s curriculum is rigorous and demanding, and the students tackle it with enthusiasm. They’re not about just turning in their assignments and going home.
“ These kids are stopping me in the hallway and asking how they can make their drawing better or add a certain color or texture to their print because they just want to know,” says Varner.

The museum’s goal is to become a classroom for CAPA students and to write curricula that can be shared with other museums.

“ From the school’s point of view,” Varner says, “the way they talk about it is ‘We’ve got a museum in our hip pocket.’

“ They’re as excited as The Warhol is. It’s this link, and now it’s like this link is a bridge—me.”


All About Jackie and JFK
Good Fridays Focus on Famous First Couple

During the Kennedy presidency, Jackie Bouvier Kennedy was an idyllic woman of beauty, mystery, and grace. Her elegance, look, and qualities became measures of American icons and ideals. She clearly marked the era of “Camelot” in America.

January 16: The Warhol’s Good Fridays program celebrates Jackie and is a tribute to her magnificence. The Evening Factory is all about creative thinking and experimentation. It is an event that offers visitors the opportunity to play and work all night long just as Warhol did in his New York studio, the Silver Factory.
Bob Jackson, Dallas Times Herald Collection.
Courtesy The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.

Make and take home a silkscreen print of Jackie; become Jackie by having your photo taken in the photo booth wearing her signature pillbox hat, jacket and gloves; watch her tour of the White House; or just adore her up close as you tour the exhibition, November 22, 1963: Image, Memory, Myth.

Make plans to stop by and print ‘til you drop, listen to music, have something to drink, be a Super Star, or just relax in the creative vibe that will encompass The Warhol from 5-9 p.m. All visitors are welcome. No reservations are necessary, and the program is free with museum admission.

January 30: Gary Mack, curator at The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Texas, will visit The Andy Warhol Museum and take part in a question-and-answer session with Bob Hoover, book editor for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Their discussion will focus on the JFK assassination and related conspiracy theories.

February 13: To learn more about JFK’s famous First Lady, plan to attend a lecture at 7 p.m. titled The 1960s: Jackie & Fashion. David Lubin, professor of Art at Wake Forest University, whose book Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images was released November 2003, will present his lecture, Chanel & Dallas, November 22, 1963: A Portrait of Jackie Kennedy.

Lubin will explore the cultural significance of the Chanel suit, the happy couple, and the Kennedy era. A 1960s women's fashion show, coordinated by Richard Parsakian of EONS Fashion Antique in Pittsburgh, will follow the lecture at 8:30 p.m. The fashion show is free with museum admission.

Off the Wall Series Begins Fourth Season

When programmers at The Andy Warhol Museum came up with the term Off the Wall to describe its performance art series, they certainly knew the definitions of that slang phrase ranged from “extremely unconventional” to “strange, bizarre, wacky, over the top” and “without foundation, ridiculous.

Sekou Sundiata

But it could also be regarded in a literal sense, as in moving art from walls to stages— an appropriate interpretation for a museum.
Now entering its fourth year, the Off the Wall series might fit each of those descriptions—or none at all.

And that’s the point.

The goal is to stretch imaginations via a slate of boundary-busting performances available nowhere else in Pittsburgh—a suitable function for a museum housing the works of a forward-thinking artist who also moved art from walls to more malleable spaces.

The Off the Wall performances begin January 17 with Instructions for Forgetting by the British art-ensemble group Forced Entertainment. Written and performed by artistic director Tim Etchells, this work is described as “part intimate essay, part fragmented narrative.” Via letters, home movies, and interviews, Etchells delves into personal history as it fits into the larger context of cultural history. His multi-media performance documentary explores video “as a container for image and memory.”

Tim Etchells, artistic director for Forced Entertainment.

An Evening with Sekou Sundiata is slated for February 21. When Ani DiFranco invited poet/performer Sundiata on her 2001 tour, she labeled the outing “Rhythm and News,” after the term Sundiata uses to describe his merger of poetry with blues, jazz, soul, Afro-Caribbean, and hip-hop beats. Sundiata’s commentary touches on issues, attitudes, and pop-culture icons as filtered through the consciousness of an African-American “ritual poet” and former late-‘60s/early-‘70s radical.

March 6 and 7, Off the Wall leaves The Warhol’s walls for those of downtown’s Hilton Hotel, where the New York City Players will perform Richard Maxwell’s play, Showcase. In a microscopic look at a slice of one man’s life, the play examines the psyche of a businessman endeavoring to connect his interior hotel-room thoughts with those in the world around him. The six performances will occur in an actual guest room, which will give viewers a sense of near-participation they might not experience on a regular stage.

Other upcoming shows include an evening with narrative poet Dael Orlandersmith on April 10; Philadelphia’s New Paradise Laboratories’ performance of Stupor, April 24; and the May 22 and 23 return of Off the Wall veteran Tim Miller with his new creation, Us.

Full subscriptions (6 performances) to Off the Wall performances are available to Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh members at the discounted rate of $72. Four-pack and three-pack subscriptions and single tickets are also available at discounts for members. Call The Andy Warhol Museum at 412.237.8300 for tickets and more information.

Funding for The Warhol's performing arts programming was provided by the James H. Beal Fund, Jack and Tally McKee Memorial Fund, and Samuel and Carrie Arnold Weinhaus Memorial Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation. Special thanks to guest curator, Mark Russell at P.S. 122 in New York. Media sponsors are Pittsburgh City Paper and 91.3 FM WYEP.

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Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.