Andy Warhol’s name is well-known, even if people don’t know what for. And if those people visit Pittsburgh, they may think, “Oh, this is where Andy Warhol comes from!” There is a museum named after him, a huge mural in downtown, wall prints in the airport, token artwork in coffee shops, and even a bridge dedicated to him!
That general assumption would be correct; Andy Warhol “comes from” Pittsburgh. His parents were from present-day Slovakia, proving the rich and diverse immigrant history of Pittsburgh. And it is in Pittsburgh that his artistic seeds were both sewn and cultivated, through childhood illness, long stints of being bedridden and home-bound, a simple camera, and parents who saved enough love and money to send him to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University).
Born in 1928, all of his formative years were spent in Depression-era Pittsburgh. But in 1949, Andy took his talents to New York City and remained there until his death in 1987. Although Pittsburgh has to share Andy with New York, they still claim him- and rightly so. If he hadn’t grown up surrounded by the steel industry, and factories, and a smoky city, would he have had the same infatuation with adding color to the mundane and fascination to the usual? If he had been raised on a rural farm would he have seen a Campbell’s soup can as a unique, artistic specimen?
More important to note is the eagerness with which Pittsburgh claims him. Pittsburgh prides itself on being different, having unusual takes on things that are “mundane” like sandwiches, and having its own dialect. The Andy Warhols of the world can flourish there, their varied eccentricities can find a niche to bloom, and still, the Yinzers will say, “Yes, this one’s ours.”
The Legacy of Andy Warhol is seen and felt throughout Pittsburgh but honestly, it may be more accurate to say the Legacy of Pittsburgh is evident through Andy Warhol.