James Carroll and the New ARTS Program (NAP) are universally considered among Keith Haring’s earliest supporters. In the late 1970s, across the street from the NAP offices in Kutztown, Haring established one of his first studios. Carroll, voracious in his support of emerging artists, embraced Haring and his friend, Kermit Oswald, and became an early proponent of their work. Over the ensuing years, Haring collaborated on a number of projects with NAP; even painting a massive mural on the studio floor. As his fame in the industry grew, Haring never forgot his roots; one of his last print editions was in support of a NAP benefit concert. 

[Keith's] strength and attributes are in his improvisational lines, the spontaneity, the hurriedness, the quickness and the very raw natural qualities that are arrived at being fluid and momentary. His space is agitated and permeated with both short and long lines, and one is not able to pick out what is positive and negative space, as it is interchangeable in a dual ground-figure relationship of sometimes-social references.

James Carroll, Founder of NAP

The New ARTS Program

Creativity and Inspiration in the Visual,
Performing and Literary Arts

Murals by Keith Haring are on the floors or the NAP exhibition space and office.

For nearly 50 years the New ARTS Program, Inc. (NAP) has been a source of creativity and inspiration in the visual, performing and literary arts. Founded by James Carroll in 1974, NAP’s primary goal was to provide access to works by world-renowned artists, in a variety of fields, and to works by local artists of the Lehigh Valley and Berks County. Its core program was a two-day artist’s residency. Innovators in the arts were invited to the NAP Kutztown, Pennsylvania studio where they hosted a public forum, exhibition or performance and then engaged in two days of hour-long one-on-one sessions with aspiring local artists. A no-frills sign-up sheet was posted in the lobby allowing unparalleled access to luminaries such as: Phillip Glass, Ursula Von Rydingsvard, Keith Haring, John Cage, Lawrence Weiner, and Richard Serra among others. More than 700 artists participated in the residency program over the years.

In addition to their residencies, NAP has published over seventy limited edition prints, which are the main source of the nonprofit’s funding. James Carroll encouraged his collaborators to experiment with printmaking, often resulting in unique and inventive compositions. NAP editions were created by innovators in the field of music, dance/choreography, architecture and other visual artists.

The New ARTS Program, Inc.’s dedication to supporting artists in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding region is undeniable. Through internships, bi-monthly television programs, publications, exhibitions and an extensive art research library, NAP continues to allow emerging and evolving artists a direct line to established figures in the field. 

Kutztown has its good points. Excessive amounts of love and sanity. Precise order. Fresh air. A different background noise … still a hum but a softer, more natural buzz. Time to contemplate, time to reflect and dream.

Keith Haring

Keith Haring 1958–1990

Keith Haring was born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. From a young age he enjoyed drawing, especially Disney characters and other cartoons. He initially wanted to become a commercial artist but after a year at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, Haring dropped, moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Haring immediately felt connected to the thriving alternative arts scene happening downtown in the late 1970s and became friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf.

Inspired by the ideals of “art as life” and moving the art experience out of galleries and into the streets, Haring’s first major works were his subway drawings. Haring produced over one hundred of these public works between 1980 and 1985, integrating his now-iconic exuberant, cartoonish outlined figures into everyday public space in a way that directly engaged its viewers. Haring recalled that the most important aspects of these works was the immediate engagement people had with them, asking him “what does it mean?” and giving him feedback that he’d then incorporate into future drawings. In this way, these works became reflections of the people who viewed them, responsive to and in dialogue with their environment. These works quickly garnered the attention of tastemakers in New York and his first solo exhibition was held at Westbeth Painters Space in 1981 and a celebrated show debuted at the high-profile Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York the following year.

Throughout the 1980s, Haring was committed to democratizing the art experience and along with paintings, he also created theater sets, billboards, murals, advertising campaigns and even a line of Swatch watches. In 1986 he opened the Pop Shop in SoHo, selling apparel, posters and toys bearing his drawings. This was a controversial move, as many galleries criticized Haring for “de-valuing” the art object while others, such as Andy Warhol, championed Haring’s insistence on making art accessible and affordable. Pop Shop was highly influential to contemporary crossovers of art and merchandise that are now so dominant, as in the work of Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama, KAWS, Shepard Fairey and Takashi Murakami.

In addition to this ideology of accessibility, Haring was also very socially engaged and used his striking imagery to promote awareness of various political and social campaigns. His many notable public works included a mural on the western side of the Berlin Wall, the Crack is Wack mural in New York, and a mural for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988 and used his presence in the arts community to raise awareness of the crisis. In 1989, a year before his death, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, whose mission is to raise funds for AIDS organizations and children’s literacy and arts programs.

Since his death in 1990, Haring has become one of the most widely-recognized and celebrated artists of the 20th century, priming the path for the rise of graffiti and street art in the 21st century and a socially-conscious approach to talking about sexuality, intimacy and visibility through public art. Famed New York gallerist Jeffery Deitch asserts that Haring made “works that can hang in museums alongside masterpieces…and hold their own as art-historically important pieces,” expressly because they embrace and engage popular culture with an immediate and dynamic visual language that celebrates the joy and chaos of our society.

Auction Results Keith Haring