Field Trip Friday is a new tradition that we take very seriously here at Untuck. We’re always looking for an outing that will give us a break from our daily tasks, but also a new source of creative energy that can be put right back into our craft. This past Friday we chose to visit Fresh Artists, a burgeoning nonprofit that has a heart and mind for kids and public school art programs (or lack thereof). I (Jason) have recently been asked to join the board of this nonprofit, so I have a healthy vested interest and connection to the organization. Also, I was put in charge of organizing this go ’round of our office excursions—no pressure!
Fresh Artists is the vision of Barbara Chandler Allen and her son, Roger Allen. Along with a dedicated daily team of Desiree Bender and Dorian Volpe, they work as a well-oiled machine to make sure schools around the country have the art supplies they need. However, they do this in a very unexpected way—by empowering kids to be actual philanthropists.
With the permission of the school-aged child and the child’s guardian, they license the art of the child and digitally reproduce and enlarge it. These become gifts to corporations and individuals who make donations toward the acquisition of art supplies for school programs around the country. Through this program, these children become active partners in doing good for schools around the country, or as those at Fresh Artist call it—lateral philanthropists.
So, in hearing about all the good Fresh Artists is doing, Untuck naturally wanted to see the process and inner-workings of the organization. When we arrived at their headquarters in the Sherman Mills Complex, we were warmly greeted by Barbara and the staff. Fresh Artists has transformed this old industrial complex into a welcoming, brightly-colored space decorated with gorgeous kid creations from wall-to-wall. We were taken on a tour of the complex, shown the rooms abundantly full of donated art supplies and given sneak peeks of projects yet to be released.
Just being in the space begins to open up creative passageways that can be stuffed with the demands of daily to-dos. It’s a good thing these passageways were being opened, because the first thing that Barbara and program manager, Desiree, had us do was regress to the mindset of a second-grader and create simple mosaics from recycled Behr paint chips. We quickly came up with concepts and started creating our masterpieces. As we worked, we were given some background information on the art we were seeing around their office. We were told that this mosaic project was one of the primary projects children do in partnership with Fresh Artists.
Finally, our Untuck creations were complete! A gorgeous snowflake by Julie, a modern blocked, color-study by John, and a Hokusai-inspired wave by yours truly. We thought they looked pretty snappy. These simple pieces were so much fun to make and allowed our minds to go into a creative place of zen—the sweet spot we love to inhabit. We could see why they were so popular in art classes and so desired by donors.
When invited to creative places like Fresh Artists, we Untuck-ers don’t like to come empty-handed. On this trip, we brought designs from what we call “Passion Projects.” These projects consist of creative work for people and organizations that are near and dear to our hearts. We presented this work to Fresh Artists, which then began a wonderful conversation about how our values align. Our conversation followed the model that Fresh Artists and Untuck are both guided by—Great Work, Doing Good for the world around us.
I am so glad that the Untuck team could meet Fresh Artists and see all the great work that they are doing. At Untuck, we get excited by organizations that show not only the power of people doing good, but also the significance that art and creativity can have on a generation of kids. It reminds us that no matter how many or few resources we possess, we can always make a lasting impact in our environment. This is why we design every day; it’s all about creating positive impact. Thank you to Barbara and the entire Fresh Artists team for making this Field Trip Friday so…fresh! (had to do it).