Fresh Artists puts students in the spotlight

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Artwork from local students were on display by Fresh Artists at the Philadelphia Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

It was a picture-perfect weekend for aspiring artists at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

As FDR Park in South Philadelphia was filled with flowers and horticulture enthusiasts, many young artists had a chance to showcase their work to thousands of people, thanks to Bloom Boom, which was hosted by the nonprofit Fresh Artists.

For the fourth straight year, Fresh Artists collected entries from students in kindergarten through 12th grade to be displayed at a curated exhibition at the 2022 Flower Show, which was held June 11-19 at FDR Park. 

The exhibition showcased 126 young artists from school districts in Philadelphia, Norristown and Camden.

“I can’t remember a day when I didn’t love going into work and getting to see and work with the children’s artwork and all the passion they put into it and doing my best to honor their intentions through that artwork by reproducing it,” said Fresh Artists creative director and co-founder Roger Allen. “It’s both a pleasure and a blessing.”

Artwork by a student at Christopher Columbus Charter School hangs at the Fresh Artist display at the Philadelphia Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

On Saturday, students were invited with their families to be part of the show and see their work professionally exhibited as each piece of artwork was enlarged thanks to a sponsorship from Canon and its latest technology. Artwork was printed on the Arizona and Colorado large-format printers and placed in curated gold frames for the show.

The purpose of this year’s show was to highlight how people have overcome the pandemic. 

“What we were really focusing on for the exhibit was to explore the concept of blooming as a metaphor for how after two challenging years of COVID, people can begin to bloom again and be the best versions of themselves as flowers do in their most outstanding, striking and beautiful moment,” Allen said. 

Several schools from South Philly had artwork displayed including the George W. Nebinger School on Carpenter Street in Bella Vista. Nebinger Elementary Visual Arts Educator Leslie Grace was beaming with pride as three of her students had artwork displayed.

George W. Nebinger School students Simone Carleton (left) Hazel McCormick (center) and Conception Escobar-Leon (right) pose for a photo with their art teacher Leslie Grace at the Philadelphia Flower Show at FDR Park. (Contributed Photo)

“It’s really fun because sometimes in the art room you get the kids who might not get a lot of recognition elsewhere and it’s really exciting for them to use the art space or the avenue of art to find their voice and their recognition,” Grace said. “It’s really incredible that there are these opportunities outside of school where we can find ways for them to be celebrated.”

Simone Carleton and Conception Escobar-Leon, who are going into seventh grade, along with Hazel McCormick, a soon-to-be third-grader, had their artwork selected among 1,768 pieces submitted. Having their work on display was a nice reward for the hard work they put into it.

“Simone and Conception have been doing a morning art club with me the entire school year,” Grace said. “Pretty much any free time they have, they are in the art room with a handful of other middle schoolers. Hazel would come to art club on Wednesdays and she’s always been really interested in art class. They are definitely all aspiring little artists.”

Artwork by Nebinger School rising seventh-grader Conception Escobar-Leon hangs at the Fresh Artist display at the Philadelphia Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

And that’s what Fresh Artists is hoping to portray. The nonprofit, which was formed in 2008, showed the work of 47 different schools with entries from every age level and included special-needs students. All 1,768 pieces of artwork are available to view on Fresh Artist’s website at www.freshartists.org. More than 100 were able to proudly show their work at one of the biggest outdoor events in Philadelphia.

“We get to do fun exhibits like this where we get to display the children’s artwork in places that people wouldn’t really expect,” Allen said. “But also the children that we serve wouldn’t necessarily have access to. Being able to bring the passion and the love of the children to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and to bring them in to see that artwork, and see how transformative it is, is huge.”

It also raises money for future artists.

Artwork from local students were on display by Fresh Artists at the Philadelphia Flower Show at FDR Park in South Philadelphia. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Fresh Artists installs and displays large-scale reproductions of children’s art in boardrooms of Fortune 100 companies and on the sides of city buses. It is also featured in educational games carried in museum shops and deluxe catalogs.

Since it was created, Fresh Artists has curated more than 2,300 artworks by students from across the country and raised $2.5 million in art supplies and programs for kids. 

“At Nebinger, we’ve done a lot of calls for art and contests that Fresh Artist does throughout the years,” Grace said. “I just like being involved with the organization. I think it stands for something really important.”