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What does a soup can tell us about history?

Plenty, if you’re on The Andy Warhol Museum’s new online education site, where lesson plans use Warhol’s life and art to get kids thinking.








“So it’s not about Campbell’s soup, but what was Warhol doing that made him reproduce Campbell’s soup the way he did?”

-Jessica Gogan, The Andy Warhol Museum’s assistant director for education and interpretation










“The content has implications beyond just art teachers. This is something in which people of all disciplines can find something to teach.”

- Noreen Garman, University of Pittsburgh department of administrative and policy studies






Fifteen Minutes of Fame—and More
An interactive timeline opens an historical perspective on Andy Warhol’s life and work.

If you need to know what year Andy Warhol was born, you can open an encyclopedia, click on Google, or just ask any undergrad with a funny haircut. But if you need to find out what America was like when Andy Warhol was born (which was, by the way, 1928), try The Warhol: Resources & Lessons interactive timeline (set to go live in January).

Created by The Warhol’s education department and Web developer Jason Simmons, founder of Pittsburgh’s Gradient Labs, the timeline is a work in progress— halfway through Warhol’s life, and, therefore, halfway done—but promises to revolutionize the concept of an online timeline by presenting entries in the context of the artist’s life and work, rather than just a series of linear occurrences.

For example, the timeline entry for Warhol’s infamous 1963 film Sleep—a five-and-a-half hour film of poet and performance artist John Giorno sleeping—might actually cover a date range of 1962 to 1964. However, that entry would change in shape and size from one end of the time period to the other to reflect how historical and cultural events influenced Warhol’s creative processes and output. That shape-shifting entry also would represent Warhol’s artistic evolution.

And as the timeline marks the era of the first “television president”—and a private citizen’s endlessly viewed home movie clip of his assassination—it also shows how TV and film became the most important forms of documentation in the public sphere. To put it all in perspective, the timeline shows how Jackie Kennedy “becomes more strongly related to Warhol’s art at a certain point of time, then less so over a period of time,” explains Simmons. “I’m not sure that’s ever been done before.”













The average American high school student’s concept of President Kennedy’s assassination is as detached as that of Caesar’s death: “November 22, 1963” …“Dallas, Texas ” … “end of an era.” But imagine students across the country and around the world picturing Jackie’s pink Chanel suit and John-John’s salute and relating those to the iconic images of their own lives: armored soldiers taking Elian Gonzalez at gunpoint; Twin Towers burning from the middle.

When students visit The Andy Warhol Museum and view the artist’s relentless series of silk-screened Jackies, it’s just this kind of association that The Warhol’s education staff hope kids will make. And now, with the launch of Warhol: Resources & Lessons—an online, educational curriculum using Andy Warhol’s life, art, and practice to teach not just art lessons but lessons across the humanities—those same connections that only art can catalyze are available to any teacher and student, anywhere, for free.

“ It’s a magnificent resource that’s right here in our backyard,” says Sarah Tambucci, director of the Pittsburgh-area Arts Education Collaborative, “and ‘our backyard’ means wherever you sit down at a computer. A virtual field trip to The Warhol Museum for any child, anywhere in the world, for free. That’s a rather amazing prospect.”

Perhaps just as important, Warhol: Resources & Lessons ( shows teachers a way to use art history and artistic practices, with Warhol as an anchor, to eliminate the walls between humanities subjects—just as Warhol himself might have done.

“ We’re not talking about hokey integration, either,” says Tambucci. “We’re talking about a visual arts teacher becoming more central to a school by working with a colleague in a way that would not have happened had not we and The Warhol [showed them how].”

The Warhol: Resources & Lessons site contains lesson plans ranging from single-session projects on topics such as interpreting symbols and advertiser’s use of scale to in-depth plans on using Warhol to teach creative thinking and 20th-century history. It’s the culmination of nearly a decade of work by the museum’s education department, with the help of Pittsburgh-area educators and a few turns of good fortune. The hard work isn’t done yet, and with a little more luck, may never be.

Camouflaged Reactions
The Warhol’s online curriculum is somewhat unique in its approach to teaching across subject lines using a single artist’s life. It is equally singular in using a Web-based resource to get students’ sleeves rolled up—and not just to hold a computer mouse. According to Abby Franzen-Sheehan, The Warhol’s assistant education curator and the site’s project manager, one thing the education department learned from experience is that students learn from experience.

“ Teaching in the galleries, when we give a tour, the goal is not to be a walk-and-talk, one-way presentation, but instead an active dialogue. It’s to create an experience that they remember,” says Franzen-Sheehan. “People remember much more of what they tell you than of what you tell them. You need an activity to get people to open up about their lives and perspectives.”
Take, for example, Warhol’s “Camouflage” series—essentially a multi-colored abstraction of a standard camouflage pattern, as well as prints of Warhol’s self-portrait and the Statue of Liberty overlaid with the pattern. It’s been the basis for one single-session lesson plan on the new Warhol site.

Students looking at the artwork, downloadable from the online curriculum, write free-association pieces about their feelings towards the works, then do the same while three pieces of music play as they view the “Camouflage” works. To an English teacher, it might be an exercise in writing. An art or music teacher might use it to discuss how works are viewed. But more than that, it’s a lesson in making connections between all these disciplines.

“ People begin realizing, ‘My feelings about camouflage affect how I view this work,’” says Franzen-Sheehan. “‘The sounds I’m listening to affect how I view it.’ People become aware of how they respond to art, and what influences that response—what affects the way they see an artwork. It all stemmed from one piece of artwork, and you can do that [lesson] with first graders or with 80 year-olds.”

The Warhol’s educators also believe that, with art, teachers can approach subject matter that might otherwise be deemed difficult or even controversial. One example is Warhol’s silk-screened Guns. Franzen-Sheehan says that a museum, and its extensions through the likes of the The Warhol’s online curriculum, “offers a safe place to discuss such difficult issues, because it’s not your own life you’re discussing.” With the Guns lesson, The Warhol offers teachers a way to approach the Second Amendment, school violence, and the entire history of firearms in America from a “safe” vantage point.

It’s this versatility—a curriculum that allows teachers to mold lessons to their classroom needs—that teachers appreciate in Warhol: Resources & Lessons.

“ Oftentimes the mistake that museum educators make is designing a kind of ‘teacher-proof’ curriculum,” says Jim Reinhard, art department chair at North Allegheny High School and one of many regional educators who worked with The Warhol, “something so canned that it takes a lot of manipulating to fit our curriculum, whatever that might be.” Not so at The Warhol.

e-Lessons in Humanities
Such versatility and depth of material is, in some respects, due to the similarly non-traditional way in which Warhol: Resources & Lessons came into being. Jessica Gogan has a hard time pinpointing when work began. As Assistant Director for Education and Interpretation for The Warhol, Gogan is an integral part of what she sees as an organic evolution over the past decade that brought about the online curriculum. From the launch of Education News, a six-page newsletter The Warhol’s education department began in 1998, every step has taken the department closer to its goal of integrating Andy Warhol into a holistic educational approach.

“ The way we’ve worked in the education department is to look to Warhol’s practice, his life, and his work to engage students in their contemporary world,” says Gogan. “So, it’s not about Campbell’s soup, but what was Warhol doing that made him reproduce Campbell’s soup the way he did?”

At the same time the department began distributing Warhol-centric, cross-disciplinary lesson plans via Education News—teaching, for example, about mythology using their 2000 Cocteau exhibit—the education department was working hard to include regional educators as partners, not just the recipients of materials. In 1998 the Museum began working in year-long collaborative art-making projects with Schenley High School, Andy Warhol’s alma mater, CAPA (Pittsburgh’s High School for the Performing Arts), and AIR (Artist Image Resource, a master art studio). Over the years these collaborations turned into a successful experimental and field testing ground for new curriculum.

Led by Tresa Varner, assistant education curator for Artists and School Partnerships, much of the curriculum developed for these partnerships is core to the new online curriculum. The close relationships between the museum and the schools continue to evolve. Varner is now an adjunct faculty member teaching printmaking at CAPA. And with help from third parties such as Tambucci’s Arts Education Collaborative, and through its annual Teacher Open House, The Warhol forged relationships with an even larger group of educators by offering curriculum and field trip ideas as well as asking teachers to challenge the museum with their needs. With every lesson either formulated for or tested by museum staff or classroom teachers, the Warhol education staff feels it provides a more useful set of lesson plans and resources.

“ We always say that we can’t put it up on the website unless we’ve tried it. We can’t publish it until we’ve taught it,” says Franzen-Sheehan.

It’s part of a philosophy that has helped make the online curriculum the opposite of “teacher-proof.” It’s teacher-crafted. As Gogan said during October’s Teacher Open House, where the new online curriculum was officially launched, “We were told by teachers that, ‘if you have downloadable PowerPoint presentations, we will love you.’ And we want to be loved!”

Along with PowerPoint offerings, every plan includes an “At a Glance” sidebar that offers everything from downloadable presentations, artwork galleries, and activities, to basic needs such as a suggested timeframe for each aspect of the lesson. And at the bottom of each sidebar is a listing of state educational standards that the lesson addresses.

Standards are a touchy subject in the arts education world—particularly since the introduction of 2002’s No Child Left Behind Act. Tambucci refers to the legislation as a “double-edged sword.”

“ On the one hand,” she says, “it calls the arts ‘core academic content,’ but then it says they’re only going to test in reading and math,” to determine schools’ progress and, therefore, funding. But with a curriculum like The Warhol’s Resources & Lessons, which not only teaches about art and artists but also uses Andy Warhol to teach across various other humanities subjects, the standards issue becomes a little less black-and-white.

“ The content has implications beyond just art teachers,” says Noreen Garman. Along with teaching curriculum development in the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, Garman also served as an advisor to The Warhol’s online curriculum development. This is something in which people of all disciplines can find something to teach.”

“ What we’re trying to demonstrate is how you can use a single artist’s work, life, and practice as a way to teach across the humanities,” says Gogan. “It’s understanding that you can mine your own local context, your own realm.”

Translating Andy
The launch of the Warhol: Resources & Lessons site represents only the first step in what might be an ongoing process of addition and revision. At least it will be if Gogan and Warhol Director Tom Sokolowski have their way.

On the museum’s 2005 traveling exhibition tour of Russia, a grant from the Alcoa Foundation not only allowed the translation of educational resources into Russian (hence the Russian-language version of the online curriculum), but also galvanized the long-talked-of Web resource center. But as Sokolowski points out, Warhol in Russia doesn’t mean the same thing as Warhol in America.

“ This curriculum was developed primarily and firstly in Pittsburgh by our staff,” he says. “It’s what we think about Warhol. But in Russia, for example, they do a different kind of a riff on it, so we’re saying, ‘Take what we’ve done, take these projects, tweak them or change radically.’ Then we can put their ideas on the Web and we see how they did it. So it’s many people reading the same texts, and then coming up with very different interpretations.”

Diverse schools in Pittsburgh and Russia have done just that. Through the site, students learned that Warhol collected the people, places, and things around him to make his art through the whatever-comes-across-your-desk approach of Time Capsules or Screen Tests, his short film portraits that number more than 500. This inspired local teachers to use collecting as a theme to explore a variety of ideas in art and social studies—and World War II, in particular, with students examining a soldier’s locker and then their own. Russian teachers were then inspired by their peers in Pittsburgh, and in their own exploration of school lockers found the regular presence of dust, which triggered an idea for their own photographic project.

In addition to placing lessons into context for various audiences, Gogan says that further translations—in Portuguese, Spanish, and possibly Chinese—are in the works, perhaps in connection with future traveling exhibits. And right here in Pittsburgh, other versions of the lessons of Andy Warhol are being translated for students with very different needs.

Lynda Abraham-Braff’s students at Wesley Spectrum Highland School span the entire K-12 grade range, as well as a similarly broad range of emotional and social challenges. Because of the different abilities of her students, Abraham-Braff must alter any lesson plans and activities she gets from any source, an opportunity that Warhol’s online lessons offer. But often, more so than Guns or the Kennedy assassination, Pop Art, or American history, Andy Warhol becomes the lesson himself.

“ Warhol was this strange kind of a guy,” says Abraham-Braff, “and the lesson is, that’s okay. We’ve done a lot with our kids doing self-evaluations, discussing aesthetics, realizing that different things have different values. It gives our students an opportunity to be individualistic and realize that, as long as they’re within certain bounds, that’s all right. It’s okay not to say what somebody else has said, and that’s the most important thing.”

The online curriculum is made possible through the funding and generous sponsorship of Alcoa Foundation. Additional funding is provided by W.L.S. Spencer Foundation and Verizon. Educational programs at The Warhol are made possible through gifts from the Mellon Financial Corp., The Grable Foundation, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, The National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, Surdna Foundation, and YouthWorks.

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