Big and bigger: Specialty Graphics Industry gives Fresh Artists a boost

  • comcast gallery
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  • amanda s painting
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When we met Brian Phipps at the SGIA (Specialty Graphics Industry Association) trade show last November, we had no idea our lives would soon be changing – dramatically!


Encouraged by our advocate Tim Markley, president of SGIA, Fresh Artists has been attending the show for the past 5 years. By meeting people in the industry, we’d be able to make friends who would help us advance our mission. Boy, was he ever right!


When a corporate executive makes a donation to support the mission of Fresh Artists, she is offered an enlarged photograph of a piece of children’s art, printed on a sturdy substrate as a thank-you for their gift. Fresh Artists installs the art in her office. This contribution enables Fresh Art to deliver quality art supplies to a school in need.


We’re the “poster child” of the industry

Originally, Fresh Artists outsourced all of our “thank-you” printing to a local large format commercial printer, at a deep discount.  Our unusual application attracted the interest of SGIA leadership, and many of its members embraced Fresh Artists as the poster child of its industry, setting up a demonstration print shop to give inner city teens a hands-on workshop experience printing, scanning and trimming with industry-donated equipment. Then one Friday afternoon, the local printing firm suddenly went out of business. Thanks to our SGIA friends, we didn’t miss a step. We fired up our equipment and transformed from an educational facility to handling all of our print production!


When our Creative Director Roger Allen saw Mutoh’s 1608 Hybrid Eco Solvent Printer at the 2014 SGIA trade show in Las Vegas, his jaw dropped. Here was the possibility of printing children’s art directly to substrate, in this case Ultraboard, making the job of corporate installations immeasurably easier and more efficient for our tiny, one-man shop.


Roger and Barbara Allen met with Brian Phipps, Vice-President / General Manager of Mutoh America Inc., who listened to our story, was moved by the organization’s mission, innovation and direct connection to his industry and saw the possibilities.


Two months later we received big news: Mutoh would be donating the printer to Fresh Artists! We were floored and deeply humbled. We named the printer “Brian,” in honor of this incredibly generous in-kind gift.


Phipps’ response to our predictable yelps of joy: “Glad we can help your wonderful mission.”


Roger’s reaction: “Help? Heck, you're going to reshape the entire way we fabricate and open complete new worlds to us. Transform is a better word!”


Journey of a painting

Perhaps the impact of Mutoh’s gift is best understood by way of a story. This story begins at the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, in West Philadelphia.


A few years ago the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy approached us asking if their children could be part of Fresh Artists.


HMS School educates, nurtures, and cares for children and young adults with complex physical disabilities resulting from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury or other neurological impairments. Their goal is enabling each to reach his or her maximum potential.


Because HMS is a private school it technically does not qualify for Fresh Artists’ support. But the school pled its case. Their students, they explained, have adequate art supplies and an amazing art teacher. They didn’t want us to give them art supplies. They sought an alliance with Fresh Artists to provide their children with the opportunity to take an active role in the world, helping other children through gifts of their artwork. Typically, they are the ones being taken care of.  Giving their artwork to Fresh Artists turns them into philanthropists – impactful givers contributing to the world. Her rationale deeply resonated with us. That initial conversation launched a powerful partnership.


Amanda’s gift keeps giving

Amanda, like many kids at HMS, has very limited range of motion with her hands. But with help from her art teacher, Eiko Fan Takahira, she is able to paint through a kind of Rube Goldberg set up.


Amanda was 16 when she created the artwork that grabbed our attention. The original acrylic painting measured 32” x 35.” But because of its bold colors and elegant composition, Barbara and Roger knew it was a knockout.


Thanks to “Brian,” our large format printer, the enlarged artwork now is one of the most frequently chosen pieces of art in the Fresh Artists collection. Amanda’s piece, installed in offices across the country has enabled us to deliver truckloads of art supplies to schools with empty art room shelves.


The strength of her artwork motivated DENY Designs, an innovative print-on-demand home furnishings company, to apply her artwork and those of other Fresh Artists children to household accessories, such as clocks, throw pillows, decorative keepsake boxes and duvet covers – and generate further funding to support Fresh Artists mission.


We were recently invited to exhibit our signature large-format digital reproductions of children’s artwork from our collection and collateral DENY Designs accessories in a 3,200 sq. ft. gallery at Comcast’s corporate headquarters in downtown Philadelphia. More than 250,000 shoppers coming into the city for Comcast’s annual holiday show descend the grand stair afterwards and see Amanda’s artwork on display, along with art by her peers in other schools. The exhibit has heightened awareness for our work and raised additional funds to deliver art supplies and innovative art programming in public schools.


Expressions of appreciation

“To have Amanda’s art chosen by corporate leaders and to know how it has helped so many other students sends a powerful message about our students who, like Amanda, are typically those receiving help from others,” explains Diane Gallagher, executive director of HMS School. “Working with Fresh Artists has allowed Amanda to demonstrate her abilities and to celebrate her accomplishments by giving back in a meaningful way.”


Barbara Allen, Founder and President of Fresh Artists, expresses her appreciation.


“We’re over the moon with our partnership with Mutoh and the entire large format digital print industry, who make it possible for Fresh Artists to amplify the stunningly beautiful artwork of vulnerable children – some economically disadvantaged and those struggling with physical challenges. Scaling up in size and number makes these talented and generous children visible to millions of people, while enabling us to keep art supplies in the hands of children in our public schools. The children see their impact on the world, and see themselves in a thoroughly different light.”