Reaching Your Childhood Dreams

February 7, 2008
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Pittsburgh: Gay Vacation Destination, Since When?

January 24, 2008

I wanted to share some excerpts from “The Out Traveler: Andy Warhol’s Pittsburg” by H. William Bain

From the spring 2008 issue of The Out Traveler.

“I am from nowhere,” Andy Warhol was known to say when asked where he grew up. With these four words, he often gave the impression of a strained relationship with his hometown of Pittsburgh, the working-class city that fostered his talents as a child and gave rise to many of the themes that recurred throughout his work and defined his career.  Today, Pittsburgh stands as a paradigm of urban renewal, shedding its reputation as the Smoky City and officially claiming the title of “America’s Most Livable City.” In fact, Pittsburgh is quickly becoming a haven for “gay nesting” among settled Eastern same-sex couples.

You’ll find Andy’s boyhood home (3252 Dawson St.) in Pittsburgh’s university section of Oakland. The humble brick house has been privately owned for many years, but plans are being made to restore the home to appear as it did during Warhol’s childhood and open it as private housing for art students. Throughout his childhood, Andy’s family attended Mass each week at St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church (506 Saline St.; 412-421-0243).

Visitors to Pittsburgh will find a majestic theater nearby at the Benedum Center (719 Liberty Ave.; 412-456-6666), built in 1927 and restored to its original splendor as Warhol would have seen it.

It was while studying in the commercial art program at Carnegie Institute of Technology that Warhol first began to develop his ideas about the relationship between capitalism and art. Now called Carnegie Mellon University (5000 Forbes Ave.; 412-268-2000), this Pittsburgh institution is recognized as one of the world’s top arts and technology schools. Carnegie Mellon also borders on Shadyside, a mainly residential area where many gay couples now settle. While Pittsburgh lacks a true gay area, one can find several gay bars here, and it’s not uncommon to see shops flying the Pride flag.

Not far from Carnegie Mellon, you will find the Carnegie Museum of Art (4400 Forbes Ave.; 412-622-3131), which houses a number of Warhol’s works. Called the world’s first museum of modern art, it was envisioned as a showcase for the “Old Masters of tomorrow” by its founder, Andrew Carnegie, in 1895.

…the city is now ground zero for Warhol art, thanks to the Andy Warhol Museum (117 Sandusky St.; 412-237-8300), one of the most extensive museums dedicated to a single artist in the world. Opened in 1994, it houses more than 12,000 of his works, including homoerotic drawings, portraits of gay icons, and films that explore the connection between voyeurism and desire, like Blow Job and My Hustler, as well as important documents, records, and source material. Together with the Mattress Factory (500 Sampsonia Way; 412-231-3169), an avant-garde art museum exhibiting room-size installations, the Warhol plays an integral part in the contemporary art scene touted by Pittsburgh’s urbane gay set.