Keith Haring’s sister, Kay Haring, talked to Kutztown students about the famous artist growing up in Kutztown.
The author gave a presentation about her children’s book “Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing” during assemblies at Kutztown and Greenwich Elementaries and Kutztown Middle School on May 4.
“Everyone wanted to know, and together they shouted, ‘Why do you draw all the time? Why do you give your artwork away? Why do you draw on buildings, on people, on clothing, on furniture, on subway walls, on cars, on skateboards, on walls that belong to no one and on to things that will be thrown away? Why do you draw on everything?’” read Kay from her book to students. “Keith stopped drawing, just for a moment, and he answered, ‘I draw all the time because there are many spaces to fill. I give my drawings away to help make the world a better place. I draw everywhere because everyone needs art.’ Then, Keith turned back to the street, took a piece of chalk from his pocket and he just kept drawing.”
Kay said people often ask her what it was like growing up with Keith. Was he always drawing?
“Yes, he was always drawing. He was just like me, just like you,” said Kay, showing school pictures of Keith as a child as well as drawings he created during his youth. “He did know when he was young that he liked art and he wanted to be an artist.”
Much of her assembly focused on Keith’s childhood leading up to how he became a famous artist in New York.
“To me, (his art) is colorful and it’s lively and it’s fun, and I love that people can relate to it,” said Kay prior to the assembly at Kutztown Elementary. “I love that it is so accessible to everybody.”
She hopes students learned from how Keith lived.
“There are a number of key principles that Keith lived by. It’s what I’ve been saying to kids. It’s all about think big, work hard and give back,” said Kay. “I’m really going to give them examples of how Keith did that both as he was growing up and then when he was older, sharing his art everywhere.”
Giving an assembly at Kutztown Elementary was particularly special to Kay, she and her siblings attended KES when they were children.
“This is really special. I wrote this presentation about growing up in Kutztown,” she said.
Kay also talked about a couple pieces of Keith’s artwork on display in Kutztown, such as the sculpture at Kutztown Park.
“There are a lot of neat connections,” said Kay. “I just want them to know Keith as a person and as a good person and how much he shared. He gave away so much of his work. It was really working for free. It was all about sharing his work with so many people. That’s really the reason I wrote the book so that people feel that they know Keith as a person. Very generous and very genuine... Anyone could talk to him. He was friendly with everybody. He would be signing every kid’s shirt in here if he could. He was like that all the time.”
Kay also signed copies of her children’s book at the Kay Haring Book Signing and Art Show at Kutztown Middle School on May 5. The Art Show displayed student-created artwork inspired by Keith’s art. In honor of the Haring Family, proceeds of the Book Sale will go to the KASD Education Foundation. The Visual Arts Program of KASD sponsored this event.