Eileen Viloria, a tour guide at the Andy Warhol Museum, talks about Warhol’s art with a group of seventh graders from Manchester K-8. (Photo/Jeanette Lee)

At the Andy Warhol Museum, a group of seventh graders watch as their tour guide holds up a T-shaped tool.

“This is what we call a squeegee,” says tour guide Eileen Viloria.

“A what?” one student asks.

They listen as Viloria goes on to explain how Warhol used the tool to create his unique and famous silkscreen paintings.

Led by Viloria, 19 seventh graders from Pittsburgh Manchester K-8 school were given an opportunity to explore the Andy Warhol Museum and learn about the artist’s life and career on Tuesday.

On each floor of the museum, the students were given a brief introduction to Warhol’s work and then a chance to take a closer look at the paintings that particularly inspired them.

The students learned that Warhol always made multiple variations of his artwork and sold them at discounted prices to the people who commissioned them. They also discovered that he created more than 600 time capsules, but died before he had a chance to exhibit them.

For 13-year-old Ashley Clark-Jordan, the time capsules were the best part of the tour.

“It was interesting,” she said.

Clark-Jordan’s classmate, Keona Berry especially enjoyed looking at Warhol’s paintings. She said she also likes to paint, especially self-portraits.

“I liked the different colors,” said Berry, who said she wants to be a pediatrician when she grows up, but “do art on the side” as well.

According to Ronniece Sirmones, an instructional teacher/leader at Manchester, the students had been working on creating self-portraits in the style of Andy Warhol in class.

After taking pictures of themselves, the students created multiple frames of the same picture and used different mediums, such as colored pencils, oil crayons and watercolors, to color them in.

“We are trying to do more things with the arts,” Sirmones said.

As the students left, Viloria, who regularly gives tours of the museum to groups of students, expressed her hopes for leaving an impact.

“The biggest challenge [with working with kids] is hoping that they actually appreciate and understand what they’re looking at, because it’s such a big idea.”

The students were the first class from their school to take a trip to the museum.

“We want to stimulate their creativity and get them exposed to outside the community. We want them to think outside of the box,” said Assistant Teacher Patricia Garnett.  

Wallace Sapp, a volunteer at the school, hopes these kinds of experiences will inspire the students to pursue higher education.

 “A lot of the kids are raised to survive in their environment. We’re trying to teach them there is a world outside of the hood,” Sapp said.

Jeanette Lee is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying Professional Writing and Investigative Journalism.