Brandywine art festival to raise money for Philadelphia public schools

Penn State Brandywine senior Labanya Mookerjee has turned her summer internship into a campus-wide initiative aimed at saving art in Philadelphia public schools by hosting a Fresh Artists Festival on Thursday, Nov. 1.

As part of her internship with the Brandywine Laboratory for Civic Engagement over the summer, Mookerjee worked with Fresh Artists, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to developing a sustainable funding stream of art supplies for under-resourced schools in Philadelphia. In an effort to keep the initiative alive, she is planning the festival to raise money for the nonprofit. Community members will be invited to donate to charity and, in return for their generosity, they will receive an original piece of local artwork.

"Fresh Artists uses a pretty innovative way to get funding," she said. "Kids create their own art work, which is then expanded in proportion and 'donated' to corporations; corporations use the artwork to decorate their walls and, in return, donate money to Fresh Artists."

Mookerjee is hoping to collect artwork from Penn Staters and members of the larger community to be on display during the month of November and all proceeds from donations will benefit Fresh Artists. Dimensions for the artwork, which can be delivered to the Writing Studio on the upper level of the Vairo Library, should not exceed 18x24 inches and the deadline for submission is Wednesday, Oct. 31. The name and email address of the artist should be paper clipped to the donated work.

The festival will feature artwork created by students from Philadelphia's public schools as well as art donated by the community. Fresh Artists CEO Barbara Chandler Allen will also speak with the campus about Fresh Artists and the importance of community giving at 11:30 a.m. in the Tomezsko Classroom Building lounge.

Art is of the greatest importance to Allen, who said her passion deepened as she saw art programs being cut in Philadelphia's under-resourced public schools. Since the organization was founded in 2008, Fresh Artists has raised more than $100,000 for the

In 2005, Allen worked to decorate the Philadelphia School District's Education Center. She collaborated with her son, Roger, to collect children's artwork and to use it to decorate the wide, blank walls of corporations. To her surprise, visitors passing by expressed their interest in purchasing the artwork. This gave Allen the idea for creating a self-sustainable, non-profit organization using children's artwork.

The organization soon developed a children's book, "Pablo the Philly Philanthropist," which educates children on how to use their own artwork to become contributing philanthropists.

The importance of Allen's work has been recognized nationwide. In 2010, she was awarded the 2010 Purpose Prize from Civic Ventures, an organization in California that recognizes individuals working for the good of the community. In 2012, Fresh Artists was a top 10 finalist for the Peter Drucker Nonprofit Innovation Award.