Fresh Artists was founded in 2008 out of the necessity to keep art alive in underfunded public schools by engaging the children being served in the solution – donating the use of their art to support the purchase of art supplies and generating innovative art programming for their peers.
Imagine the soaring atrium of the School District of Philadelphia’s new headquarters on North Broad Street – 850,000 square feet of vacuous space with blank, white walls. The concept for Fresh Artists arose when the Superintendent of Schools asked placemaker and private art consultant Barbara Allen to fill the space with student artwork.
Barbara engaged her son Roger in finding the answer: create large-scale digital reproductions of children’s artwork, rather than the small, original art pieces. During the 18-month installation period, the two had to repeatedly fend off admirers who wanted to buy the vibrant, colorful artwork. During that same period, they watched arts education funding plummet and art classroom shelves empty. The revelation that launched their bold idea was that the student reproductions, enlarged to a grand scale, had the potential to raise funds to increase opportunities for children. Further, they recognized that the children themselves could play an active role in addressing the critical shortage of funds for art education.