Fresh Artists, a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, was founded with the unique goal of teaching children (grades K-12) to become philanthropists by donating their artwork for corporate display and, in return, garnering contributions to purchase art supplies for severely underfunded public schools.
High-resolution reproductions of selected children’s artwork are mounted on Gatorfoam graphic display board and displayed in the offices of large corporations and community organizations across the country. In return, these organizations make a donation to Fresh Artists, which uses those contributions to purchase art supplies for inner-city art teachers.
(At right: Fresh Artists’ artist-philanthropist Juania V. visits her Gatorfoam-mounted artwork displayed at SAP Americas’ headquarters in Newtown Square, Pa. Photo by Kristin Reimer.)
Since it was founded in 2008, Fresh Artists has installed more than 1,100 pieces of art at more than 140 business locations throughout the country and delivered the value of more than $185,000 in art supplies to struggling inner-city schools. Originally started in Philadelphia, the program since has expanded to include the artwork of public-school children in Norristown, Pa.; New York City; and Denver. Art supplies are now distributed to underfunded schools in all four locations.
One of the keys to the success of this unique child-centric philanthropy program is the just-as-unique and cost-effective finishing system that Fresh Artists has developed for displaying artwork. High-resolution images of children’s original artwork are digitally printed onto satin-finish photo paper, which is laminated with a pressure-roll adhesive onto 3/16-inch thick Gatorfoam graphic display board with the black core and black facers. Digital reproductions are available in three sizes: 30 inches by 40 inches, 40 inches by 60 inches and 6 feet by 9 feet.
(At left: Fresh Artists’ curated piece displayed at The School District of Philadelphia. Photo by Jeffrey Totaro.)
“We wanted something simple and elegant that could be off-set displayed from the wall; it had to be very lightweight,” said Barbara Chandler Allen, founder and executive director, Fresh Artists. “Gatorfoam is absolutely rigid and a very stable material that doesn’t respond to swings in temperature. … It’s very smooth and very dependable. It’s the industry standard for anything that I’ve ever dealt with in the art world.”
(Gatorfoam, the original heavy-duty graphic display board, consists of polystyrene foam bonded between two layers of wood-fiber veneer laminate. This unique construction makes Gatorfoam rigid yet lightweight and warp-resistant; its surface also is exceptionally smooth and strong, offering superior dent- and scratch-resistance.)
Stand-off systems are secured to the backs of the Fresh Artists’ mounted reproductions with very high-bond tape. The digital prints then are attached to the walls with 3-inch screws with finishing washers that are threaded through the prints.
(At right: Artist-philanthropist Juania V. helps Fresh Artists co-founder Roger Allen laminate a print of her artwork to Gatorfoam.)
“We have installed as many as 97 of these reproductions in one day with just two teams of two installers,” said Allen. “This easy system allows us to hire people to install pieces in other cities. All they have to do is use an electric drill.”
Each piece of children’s artwork displayed is identified with a 3-inch by 5-inch museum-quality label featuring the child’s name and a description of the original artwork’s size and medium. Fresh Artists’ mission statement and thanks to the donor also are displayed on a label at each installation site.
“This program is not just about delivering art supplies,” said Allen. “It’s about empowering children to bring about bold change in the world – for both the children who create the artwork and for those who see it around the world. We specifically wanted to place children’s artwork in highly visible, unexpected places to pass on our message that every child has the right to a quality public education. Their art is the vehicle for this message.”
(At left: Fresh Artists’ interns Carly and Quinn install Gatorfoam-mounted prints at the Yale University Children’s Hospital Child Sexual Abuse Clinic.)
To date, Fresh Artists has built a curated collection of 840 pieces of art that have been donated by 677 children. The Fresh Artists organization works exclusively with school districts where at least 70 percent of the children are living at or below the poverty level.
(At right: Fresh Artists’ installation at W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., in Elkton, Md.)
“Art from suburban and private school kids is not part of our core collection,” added Allen. “Children living in poverty or modest means often perceive they have nothing to give to others. We show them that they’ve made something that is arrestingly beautiful and that they can do big things with it.”
Fresh Artists describes the role of children in philanthropy in its “Pablo, the Philly Philanthropist” book, which is available for on-line reading at www.FreshArtists.org.
In addition to empowering children as philanthropists, Fresh Artists Print Studio provides a teaching laboratory to introduce at-risk teens to the business of large-format digital printing. Fresh Artists also has produced a series of Fresh Artists Memory Games featuring the donated artwork from its collection. For more information about Fresh Artists’ offerings, visit: www.FreshArtists.org.
To view more photos of the Fresh Artists collection, like “Graphic Display” on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/xxbiE3 and visit the “Fresh Artists” Photo Album.
(At left: Fresh Artists’ Gatorfoam-mounted artwork displayed at Weavers Way Cooperative in Philadelphia.)