An Intergenerational Art Partnership
Nicole Bennett, Director of Resident Services and Development at The Hill at Whitemarsh, first learned about the nonprofit organization Fresh Artists long before she recommended that The Hill partner with them for a special art exhibit. Several years ago, Fresh Artists reached out to her because her daughter, who was in first grade at the time, had been chosen to display her art at the PHS Philadelphia Flower Show.
“Her school had sent home a note telling us that a piece of her artwork had been chosen. We were so proud of her, and most importantly, she was so proud of herself,” said Nicole. “She loves art, and to have her work be recognized in that way was just really exciting.”
Fresh Artists was co-founded in 2008 by mother-son duo Barbara and Roger Allen, who wanted to help keep art education afloat in underfunded Philadelphia schools. At the time, Barbara had been working as a private art consultant, and Roger was just starting his career as an industrial designer.
Barbara had received a call from the superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia at the time, asking her to design an installation of children’s artwork throughout their new administration building, which was a whopping 850,000 square feet of space. He had told her that he wanted to see kids’ art everywhere he looked throughout the building, which was no small feat.
“I brought my son, Roger, over to see the space with me, and he said one word: ‘digital!’ He had the vision to utilize new printing technology to enlarge the kids’ art to be in scale with the size of the building,” said Barbara. “He was convinced it would be a knockout, and he wasn’t wrong. That is really how we got our start.”
The idea, which was a big success, has since expanded well beyond the school district building. Fresh Artists is now an award-winning nonprofit with a corporate art program. They have installed huge reproductions of children’s art in 381 corporations throughout the country. All proceeds from installations go straight back into art classrooms in underfunded schools. Fresh Artists licenses each child’s selected artwork–with parental consent, of course–and makes reproductions of the art to fund art education where it’s so desperately needed. The child artist always gets to keep their original artwork and its copyright, empowering them to become philanthropists.
“The work we do is profoundly meaningful to us and to the children we serve,” Barbara said. “Fresh Artists has literally changed the face of philanthropy by inviting very young diverse children to be catalytic change agents in their world by putting their beautiful art to work to help other children.”
“Fresh Artists has such a great impact,” said Nicole. “The kids learn how their artwork can serve other kids, and that ignites the spirit within them to keep creating and expressing themselves artistically.”
Over the years, residents of The Hill have taken great pride in bringing the work of outside artists into the building. When a request arose to display new artwork, Nicole and her team met with a resident to brainstorm new ideas. That resident suggested showcasing children’s artwork, which immediately sparked Nicole’s memory of her experience with Fresh Artists.
“I have many friends at The Hill and live in the neighborhood, so it was such a joy to partner with The Hill to do a special installation,” said Barbara. “I’ve gotten reports that the artwork makes them so happy, and they love all the vibrant colors. Everyone seems quite tickled by it!”
Hill residents Frank and Anne Reed have been longtime supporters of Fresh Artists and love walking past the exhibit every time they go to the gym.
“We love that the program gives children more opportunities to explore art in school,” said Frank. “We’re so delighted to see the impact it’s had on the children.”
“It was such a joy to partner with The Hill to do a special installation. … Everyone seems quite tickled by it!”
– Barbara Allen
Nicole has received such positive feedback from the residents about the Fresh Artists exhibit that The Hill is now considering a more permanent exhibit of children’s artwork to brighten some of the halls in The Health Center.
“It’s all so big and colorful; it’s really hard not to smile when you see the art on display,” Nicole said. “Residents have told me that it makes them so happy to walk by and see it. Our goal is to continue the exhibit partnership with Fresh Artists and create new opportunities for collaboration whenever possible.”
Visit www.freshartists.org to learn more about Fresh Artists and the innovative impact it has had on schools across the country and to support the cause.