by Sue Ann Rybak
For many artists, the opportunity to have their artwork on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art would be a lifelong dream. That dream became a reality this summer for 12-year-old Amaryllis Green, a student at Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, thanks to a partnership between Fresh Artists and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Fresh Artists is an innovative nonprofit organization that engages children as full partners in philanthropy to keep art education in public schools.
Green, of Mt. Airy, was just one of 27 students – 13 of whom were Jenks’ students – whose artwork was chosen to be featured in Fresh Artists Mini-Masterpieces exhibit, which is on display at the museum until Sept. 13.
Barbara Chandler Allen, who founded Fresh Artists in 2008, said last year that the museum contacted the organization and asked it if it would create one of their award-winning memory games as a companion to the museum’s popular children’s book “A is for Art Museum.”
A call for entries was sent out to art teachers in public schools throughout the Delaware Valley and was posted on the Fresh Artists website.
As part of the Mini-Masterpieces program, students selected artwork from the museum’s book and created their own interpretations of the masterpieces. Allen said 320 entries were received.
She said 27 pieces were selected to be used in the sixth edition of the memory game, which will be incorporated in the museum’s education department activities and sold in the museum’s shop as well as other stores and museum shops throughout the country.
All proceeds from the sale of the Fresh Artists Memory Games and any other products featuring the children’s licensed artwork are used to deliver art supplies and innovative art programs to schools with severe cuts in arts funding.
Josh Byrne, a Friends of Jenks board member, said the board has been working closely with Allen and the Chestnut Hill community “to bring art back into the school.”
“We are very pleased with the project and very proud of our students, whose work is displayed here pretty prominently as you can see going throughout the gallery,” he said. A large percentage of the paintings are from Jenks students.”
He added that the program is a fund-raising mechanism for the school, as well.
Green, of Mt. Airy, was thrilled her artwork was selected to be in the exhibit.
“I am excited and REALLY happy that my name is here,” she said, pointing to her name beneath her version of the painting of the “Dog Cage” (Goulong). “When I first saw the picture I thought it was a tiger cage for the circus. I really like how the different colors of the cage made it all come together.”
She added that her art teacher, Robyn Miller, helped her with the shadowing and color selection.
Green’s mother, Grace, said she was “speechless” when she learned her daughter’s artwork would be featured at the art museum.
“I had no idea this was going on,” she said. “It’s incredible. We are really proud of her.”
Amaryllis’ mother recalled how her daughter drew a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog for her younger brother.
“I said, ‘You traced this,” Grace said, “’there is no way you could draw this.’”
And then, her daughter sat down and showed her how she sketched the drawing while looking at her phone.
Amaryllis’ father Randy said his daughter doesn’t get her artistic talents from him.
“I am so proud of her,” he said. “I can’t draw a straight line and all she does is draw.”
Allen said unfortunately many people have written off the public schools.
“’It’s hopeless,’ they say, ‘schools are so far behind where would you even start,’” she said. “And what we say is, ‘hold on a minute look at what is coming out of these public schools that you have thrown under the bus.’
“Imagine what we could do for these children if they were properly resourced and that is why we are advocates for equitable distribution. Fresh Artists is really not about art. Fresh Artists uses art as a way of communicating with children and empowering them to help others to identify that altruistic muscle and exercise that muscle that you can be a big giver in the world.”
Allen said all the students selected have signed an agreement allowing the use of a digital image of their artwork to be used in the Fresh Artists Memory Game and other products. The students keep their originals.
She added that funds earned from their images “go out into the world to raise more money, to deliver more art supplies, and to empower more children to be philanthropists.”
“It’s really about showing the potential and promise of children in need,” she said.
For more information or to buy a copy of the Fresh Artists 6th edition memory game, “A is for Art Museum,” go to freshartists.org.