“Andy was more interested in becoming a celebrity than the next Picasso,” explained Quaishawn Whitlock, an artist, and guide at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. He was leading half of the roughly 45 participants in the mid-June UMUC annual Arts Program trip and he explained that Pittsburgh-native Warhol (Andrew Warhola) grew up in an immigrant family, which had come from present-day Slovakia. The family was working class, but Warhol would go on to epitomize the American dream, Whitlock explained.
Over the course of the hour-long tour, Whitlock demonstrated Warhol’s printmaking techniques, reflected on the artist’s life and works, and surprised some members of his tour by sharing that Warhol’s iconic Brillo boxes were produced in a sort of assembly line and aren’t all that valuable today. “They were used as decoration a lot,” he said. “People would put them in their gallery windows.”
Bill and Paula Mitchell, of St. Mary’s City, Maryland, were participating in their first UMUC Arts Program trip. “I had seen many examples of Andy Warhol’s iconic pieces in any number of museums, but seeing examples of all of his work displayed along a timeline was very interesting,” [Bill] Mitchel said.
The couple, who collect works of African-American artists, have a connection to the university. Last spring, their son— who received a bachelor of science from University of Maryland — also received a Master of Science in Intelligence Management from UMUC.
“Appreciating and enjoying art has been one thing that Paula and I have done together for at least the last 35 years,” Mitchell said. “We enjoy looking at it, learning from it, and collecting it. Along the way we have met some incredibly interesting people who share our passion.” The arts trip, he added, “is a way to package all that and more. There is always something new to learn and someone new to meet. The trip did not disappoint.”
The Warhol Museum, the second of several stops on the trip’s itinerary, offered a great view of Warhol’s life and work, said Jon West-Bey, curator of UMUC's Arts Program.
“Warhol’s work exemplifies the innovation of American pop art,” he said. “The museum explored in detail each decade of his life and career, his colleagues and collaborators, and the objects and places that inspired him.”
The day-long art excursion began earlier at the Frick, a museum and former home of Henry Clay Frick—a U.S. industrialist who helped build the world’s largest steel operation—and his wife Adelaide.
There, trip participants visited the Frick Art Museum, which houses Italian Renaissance and 18th-century French works, furniture, and decorative arts collected by Frick’s daughter, Helen.
They also saw an art exhibit in the family’s greenhouse and viewed a car and carriage museum showing the Frick’s extensive collection of early automobiles and historic carriages.
LaTanya Eggleston, a UMUC adjunct associate professor of communications participating in her fourth UMUC Arts trip, said she was so drawn to the exhibition “Elise Adibi: Respiration Paintings” installed in the Frick greenhouse, that it was the first thing she told her father about when she visited him in Memphis for Father’s Day.
“The greenhouse with the art display was truly breathtaking—pun intended!” she said. “The flowers were so vibrant with reds, purples, yellows, and greens, and the paintings surrounding them were inviting. The tranquil ambiance could have caused me to miss the bus.”
The tour also stopped in at the Society for Contemporary Craft, where participants explored an exhibit of works by Virginia artist Sonya Clark, who uses human hair as one of her main materials. The exhibit “Oaths and Epithets,” helps viewers “discover how everyday objects act as both mirrors and sponges, reflecting and absorbing our personal and collective narratives,” according to its website.
Eggleston said it was a pleasant surprise to “reconnect” with Clark’s work, which she had first encountered on the UMUC Arts trip to Richmond in 2015. “At the Contemporary Craft, one of her [Clark’s] comb messages that spoke to me was the one that read, paraphrased: I was promoted by various people throughout life, and then I promoted myself,” she said. “This message was empowering and a reminder to all that inner confidence influences the direction of our lives.”
The art tour of Pittsburgh concluded with time for participants to explore the Three Rivers Arts Festival, a 10-day arts and music event. UMUC Arts Program Director Eric Key enjoyed the festival as much as he did the museums because, he said, it afforded attendees the opportunity to see several artists in the same place.
“Generally, the group does studio visits on the trip. The festival put some of them in one venue,” he said. “And, yet, I know there are more artists to visit. Pittsburgh seems to be a vibrant, diverse art community.”