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Through Art

Teenagers looking to find creative ways to explore their world are finding them at Carnegie Museums’ two art museums.




The Warhol's Artist/Educator Heather White (center) demonstrates silkscreening techniques to students from Schenley High School.

In February, members of Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) brass ensemble took to the stage at Carnegie Music Hall and performed a piece called “Acid Brass” with Carnegie International artist and composer Jeremy Deller, best known as a member of the British rock band Manic Street Preachers. Other CAPA students are creating Urban Interview, an Andy Warhol Museum publication modeled after Warhol’s famed Interview magazine.

At both Carnegie Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum, students plan events in which they take over the museums and fill them with performances, their own art, and various other forms of expression. The Warhol’s annual weeklong event is called Youth Invasion. Carnegie Museum of Art’s version is Teen ARTAttack. “Acid Brass” was the third of four ARTAttack events, which have included student film festivals, video scavenger hunts, and performances by high school rock bands. The next ARTAttack event is scheduled for April 30.

In each case, the museums are succeeding at inspiring budding artists and art patrons by fostering artistic exploration that goes far beyond anything students experience during short school field trips. But exploration is only one facet of these activities. The idea—and the challenge—is to use art to help students think in “bigger-picture” contexts and encourage them to pursue knowledge that may become a basis for their lives and careers—art-related or not.

It’s a lofty responsibility, one that administrators at both museums regard as an important part of their mission. But it’s sort of a no-brainer: If artistic passions are not instilled in new generations, the arts and cultural institutions won’t survive. New symphonies, ballets, and works of art have to come from somewhere, as do people willing to support the efforts of those who create them.

According to educators and students alike, the programs seem to be working. “We’re able to develop projects that are pretty open-ended, so the students are able to find their own hook and get excited about something. They’re able to do a lot of self-defined projects. That makes a big difference,” says Carrie Schneider, youth programs coordinator at The Andy Warhol Museum.

Adds Jessica Gogan, The Warhol’s assistant director for education and interpretation: “It’s less about teaching people how to create a Campbell’s Soup can and more about teaching them about the framework of thinking.”

Emily Buchler, Carnegie Museum of Art school and teacher programs specialist, explains, “One of our goals is to make the Museum of Art a comfortable place that teens will want to visit.” In addition to ARTAttack, the museum holds other student-conceived interactive events, such as poetry competitions and an online public forum for the 2004-5 Carnegie International.

Schenley High junior Elliot Smith, 17, is back for his second round of Youth Invasion planning, for which students develop a theme and corresponding activities; contact area resources such as teachers, media, and product suppliers; and arrange every detail, including a huge opening-day party. He likes the fact that the museums’ education departments are run by artists.

“You have talented people left and right offering you advice. It’s just a better environment to try to become more in touch with the art itself,” he says. “They give me all sorts of know-how; they keep me thinking. But instead of just giving me a definite answer, they help me find my own way.”

Olga Brindar, 17, a senior at CAPA, works on youth publications projects, including Urban Interview. Students involved in Youth Invasion and Urban Interview at The Warhol earn stipends, but Brindar applied because she wanted to reach beyond her visual arts emphasis at school to explore her writing talent. In December, she completed work on a ’zine—a magazine of sorts—for which she interviewed people about their philosophies on love. She turned her results into what she calls creative non-fiction, and hand-made each ’zine.

“It’s given me a new outlet to create artwork,” she says. “It gave me this great sense of accomplishment to create 20 copies of something that I did start-to-finish on my own.”

One of those ’zines was included in the portfolio she submitted with her application to Carnegie Mellon University. “I’m very sure that what I want to do with my life is art, and this is one of the things I could possibly be doing,” says Brindar. “The program has given me something new to consider.”

The Warhol’s Youth Invasion and Urban Interview programs are made possible by generous grants from: The National Endowment for the Arts and YouthWorks. Support is also provided through artists and school partnership grants from The Grable Foundation and The Surdna Foundation. Additional funds are provided by the following companies through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program: Anonymous; Cohen & Grigsby, PC.; Eat’n Park Hospitality Group; Allegheny Technologies; Equitable Resources Inc.; Eureka Bank; Hefren-Tillotson Inc.; PPG Industries Inc.; and Waste Management.

American Eagle Teen ARTAttack is sponored by the American Eagle Outfitters Foundation.

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