about townSummer 2009
“It’s not everyday that a 17-year-old can say, ‘I work at The Warhol.”

Brashear High School senior Katrina Trebesh

Teen Tonic
For a week each spring, teenagers have run of The Warhol. For a museum even as hip and unconventional as The Warhol, it’s a lifeline to a new generation.  
By Jennifer Bails

For a week each spring, teenagers have run of The Warhol. For a museum even as hip and unconventional as The Warhol, it’s a lifeline to a new generation.  


Youth Invasion—an all-teen production—draws hundreds of young people to The Warhol.

A dozen or so high school students filter into the underground studio at The Andy Warhol Museum just after closing time on a warm spring evening. Over a dinner of Doritos and Mountain Dew, they debate which bands to include in the entertainment lineup for the seventh annual Youth Invasion—where area high-schoolers commandeer The Warhol for a week, filling it with music, dance, fashion, and visual arts of their choosing.

Paying homage to our time of global uncertainty and The End: Analyzing Art in Troubled Times exhibition, the theme of this year’s event is “Doomsday: Party Till You Drop.” And with the end-of-the-world kickoff celebration less than a month away, there’s still a lot of planning left to do—performers to choose, catering menus to pick, a fashion show to produce, and an art exhibition to curate.

“Personally, I really like my own band,” quips 15-year-old Jami Morgan, lead singer for the hard-core punk rock group Code Orange Kids and a member of the Youth Invasion production team. The teens snicker, but then quickly get back to the serious business of watching YouTube videos of the bands they will vote on later that night.

Teenagers often hold many misconceptions about museums, says Leslie Clague, artist-educator at The Warhol, who co-directs Youth Invasion with youth programs coordinator Mary Tremonte. Among those beliefs: Museums are stuffy and dull; they’re for older people who are behind the times, not the young and the hip; and they border on being elitist, with nothing to offer a generation being raised on a steady cultural diet of reality TV and Twitter.

Launched in 2002, Youth Invasion challenges these assumptions by inviting 15- to 18-year-olds to get inspired by Andy Warhol’s own teen-like spirit of defying convention.

“These are our future visitors and patrons,” Clague says. “If the museum is going to survive, the young people here need to think about it as a place they like to go and where they belong. Through Youth Invasion, we are building that history.”

In turn, the students bring their fresh perspective and creative expressions to The Warhol, reenergizing the museum as it tries to stay relevant in an era of rapid-fire change, says Tresa Varner, The Warhol’s curator of education and interpretation.

“Youth Invasion is about providing a comfortable space for students to talk about the ideas that interest them and to make art about topics they care about, while bringing that 21st-century youth voice into the museum,” Varner says.

Each year, about 15 Pittsburgh-area high school students are selected to join the Youth Invasion production team. Their charge: While working under the guidance of the museum’s education team, plan every last detail of the week-long event, including the hugely popular opening celebration that draws hundreds of their peers to the museum the first Friday night in May.

The team picks everything from the bands to the food that will be served that evening in the cafe. Its members also curate their own reinstallation of Warhol art and archive material. They even produce a fashion show—strutting their stuff in imaginative, off-the-wall creations (we’re talking hot-pink veils and a skirt made from a rainbow of Post-it notes) with Warhol’s work as the edgy backdrop. And, oh yeah, they also have to develop a marketing campaign to draw the crowd.

The event—funded this year through a grant from American Eagle Outfitters Foundation—also features a juried exhibition of student art selected by the curatorial staff at The Warhol to hang alongside the permanent collection.

Brashear High School senior Katrina Trebesh of Mt. Washington could hardly contain her excitement when she heard her photographs would be displayed next to Warhol’s work at last year’s Youth Invasion event. “As a young artist who admires Andy Warhol very much, I was jumping up and down and crying,” she says.

This year, Trebesh worked as part of the Youth Invasion marketing committee, an experience she says will help her as she
pursues a communications degree next fall at Roosevelt University in Chicago. “How great it is that there is this huge event just for teens that lets us express ourselves and exhibit our work?” she asks. “And it’s not everyday that a 17-year-old can say, ‘I work at The Warhol.’”

For punk rocker Jami Morgan, participation in Youth Invasion has meant learning how to get along in a group of people from all kinds of backgrounds, and how to think in “bigger-picture” ways. “This is better than school because I’m learning and doing at the same time,” says Morgan, a sophomore at Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

By the end of the evening, Morgan had won over the rest of the production team: Code Orange Kids would have its chance to perform at the event’s premiere, along with Awaken the Horror, Korporate Kombat, and The Good Dharmas. “It’s going to be a really cool atmosphere with lots of stuff going on,” he says. “Our theme is the end of the world. But it’s not just going to be a bummer. It will be a fun take on it.”

Weeks later, on the opening night of Youth Invasion 2009, more than 500 of Morgan’s peers bounced to the beats, and reveled in all of the Doomsday fun. Just the beginning, the staff at The Warhol hope, of a lifelong appreciation of the arts.
Also in this issue:

Robots R Us  ·  Honoring Robotic Mettle  ·  An Equal Opportunity Lens  ·  Diva Intervention  ·  A Tribute to Our Donors  ·  Directors' Note  ·  NewsWorthy  ·  Now Showing  ·  Face Time: Ellen McCallie  ·  Field Trip: Branching Out  ·  Science & Nature: Harnessing the Horse  ·  Artistic License: Expanding View  ·  The Big Picture