Live with the Youth at A.I.R. / by Alex Young

Quaishawn Whitlock, Anthony Quesen, James Jaap and Nate Weaver - photograph by Alex Young

Quaishawn Whitlock, Anthony Quesen, James Jaap and Nate Weaver - photograph by Alex Young

Being youthful is having unrelenting energy coupled with a burning desire to absorb new information and new skills.

The youth spirit can be inspiring, especially for those who feel like they've lost that twinkle in their eye, their vigor for a vibrant life.

Specific organizations in Pittsburgh strive to foster the essence of youth for kids by supporting their creativity.

Together, The Andy Warhol Museum and Artists Image Resource, an artist-run printmaking facility on the North Side, have partnered for Youth Open Studio. Their collaboration has gone on for some years now, at least since 2013, and their work teaches teenagers the photographic silkscreen printing process, new art techniques, and provides the kids with a creative space to complete their independent projects.

At A.I.R. for the open studio, 13 to 18-year-olds fill the workspace. The Warhol's artist educators offer assistance and company to the kids. The studio time is an opportunity for the kids to push their artistic talents outside of the classroom. Many of the participants go to CAPA, Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts school.

A.I.R.'s facility is spacious with several levels and various print machines. The top floors are saved for feature exhibitions by artists in the community. Anthony Quesen, James Jaap, and Nate Weaver, a senior, freshman, and eighth grader at CAPA, chill in one of the printing spaces on the first floor. Lil Yachty bumps from the speaker system, and not that bubbly Lil Yachty, the Lil Boat with rawness and bars in his songs like "Mase in '97" or "Hasselhoff." Quaishawn Whitlock, one of The Warhol's resident artist educators, supervises the young crew.

"We come here every Wednesday," Anthony says.

Anthony, the senior primed to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art next fall, helps James refine his screen printing process. I go live on the InTheRough Style Instagram as the kids draw white paint over black hoodies to adorn them with a graphic of a hand with a rocket ship as one of the fingers. They bob their heads to the background music, stopping the prints to dance in front of my camera as they realize they have an audience.

The kids' energy is infectious. I fixate on their positive attitudes which precede them because of Anthony's pink unicorn shirt and porcupine crown he wears. They are patient with each other, Anthony tells James to apply more pressure when he draws the squeegee across the screen so that his print shows crisp on the hoodie. They marvel at the finished project. "I'm definitely wearing this to school," James says.

As curious as I am of their aura, their inquisition of Quaishawn and I is just as strong. "Alex, are you an artist too?" Anthony says. I tell him I write the news for the youth in Pittsburgh. All of their eyes get big, but I direct the conversation back to them. "Q showed me your prints. You're crazy, man," I tell Anthony. He moves to show me more of his art that he holds in a folder. Anthony's work is like a dream world from the mind of an adolescent on acid or something trippy like that, reflective and colorful.

Around the three kids again, James says he is into music but takes interest in just about everything. Nate is reserved, the youngest of the bunch and a skilled printer. I tell the freshman and eighth grader to keep hanging out with older kids. "It means you're ahead of your time," I say.

The background music cuts off at this point, so I go to the speaker and plug in my iPhone. I need to play a song that matches the youthful energy in the room. I had to play XXXTENTACION's "Look At Me!" Blaring bass hits and hype vocals resonate with a rage and fun that compares to teenage spirit. The five of us break out into a spontaneous turn-up. We're jumping high up and down, shimmying our shoulders and shouting the lyrics. "Look at me, YUH!" Anthony daps me up. "This song is too hard," he says.

After, we wind down. Quaishawn puts everything back in order and locks A.I.R.'s doors. As we leave, I tell the kids to keep their energy no matter what. We follow each other on IG and depart.

"They're so inspiring to be around," Quaishawn says. "They make me want to go home and lose myself in my artwork."

Astonished by the interaction, Q reflects on the kids. "Everyone has that spirit in them. But when we come home from work we're tired. You just have to do it, be willing to get lost in your youth."

The Andy Warhol Museum and Artists Image Resource will continue to be present for Pittsburgh's young community. Youth Open Studio continues to run on Wednesdays from the North Side studio, and on April 28 The Warhol will host its annual Youth Invasion party at the museum with food, silkscreen printing, and musical performances by groups like hip-hop oriented 1Hood.


518 Foreland Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15212


The Warhol: Youth Invasion

April 28, 2017 | 5-10 p.m.

117 Sandusky Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15212