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SEPTA and Fresh Artists: Changing "heARTS"

David Gaines
SEPTA Media Relations Intern

You have visited the Franklin Institute Science Museum; the Philadelphia Athletics Museum; the Please Touch Museum; the world-renowned Philadelphia Museum of Art; and now, thanks to SEPTA and Fresh Artists, there is a new museum in the city of Philadelphia, and it's coming to you.

During the 2014 Philadelphia International Flower Show, SEPTA debuted the "Fresh Flowers Mobile Museum", a customized 40-foot bus that will be in service until the end of 2014. The bus's exterior and interior is decorated with 33 floral still life pieces, which were crafted and donated to Fresh Artists by students from several Philadelphia schools, including J.S. Jenks Elementary School, Hill Freedman Middle School, Stearne Elementary School and Ziegler Elementary School.

Unfortunately, many of the kids who contributed the artwork featured on the mobile museum were unable to see its display at the Flower Show. That's why on June 11th, SEPTA met up with Barbara Allen, founder of Fresh Artists, and her two colleagues, Evelyn Boch and Robyn Hill, on the mobile museum and traveled to the artists' schools to show the students and their peers what they had accomplished.

Fresh Artists is a non-profit philanthropic organization determined to keep art alive in schools. Exchanging artwork contributed by school children for donations from high profile businesses, Fresh Arts provides intercity schools with art supplies and art programs that are otherwise impossible for them to have. Corporations like Comcast and Independence Blue Cross have already invested in the movement and have several of the kids' masterpieces hanging in their offices and hallways.

Earlier this year, Allen approached SEPTA and asked for help in spreading her organization's message: "When you have a good idea and you are convinced it is the right thing to do to the point where nothing can deter you, then amazing things can happen."

Eli Zickler, a fifth-grader at J.S. Jenks Elementary School, who admittedly hates smiling, could not help but beam with joy when he saw his Van Gogh-based piece, Sunflowers, being exhibited on the bus. "I didn't even know this was going to happen today," said the surprised student. "It feels good to know somebody cares about what I make." After he completed the train of celebratory high-fives and fist bumps from his peers, Eli stated his excitement to continue his involvement with Fresh Artists.

Mark Robbins, a special needs ninth-grader at Hill Freedman Middle School, also received a long round of applause and cheering from his peers and teachers as he stood in front of his Marsden Hartly-inspired piece, Flower Abstraction. Cameras clicked and Mark smiled his hardest as he basked in his newfound "stardom".

"Not everyone is a mathematician or novelist. This program is helping kids express themselves through art, and has really helped improve their behavior. The only people prouder than the students are the parents," said Evelyn Boch, who has 37 years of experience in the School District of Philadelphia.

"For some Fresh Artists kids, this is all they have," said Barbara Allen. "They face domestic issues, city violence and poverty. I want to be able to give them much more than I can now."

Allen volunteers a tremendous amount of time and effort for Fresh Artists (without taking a paycheck) to "make invisible kids visible".

"Fresh Artists is a growing family of selfless individuals whose passion binds them together to save art in Philadelphia schools, empower kids and create opportunities for children to be philanthropic," said Allen.

Watch for the Fresh Flowers Mobile Museum as it travels around town and perhaps you too may be inspired and empowered by the showcase of the children's fine art.

For more information about Fresh Artists, click here.

Fresh Artists' founder Barbara Allen and graphic designer Roger Allen collaborated with SEPTA to make the Mobile Museum a reality.

J.S. Jenks Elementary School students file into the Mobile Museum to see their friends' artwork.

The Mobile Museum is decorated inside and out, from front to back.

Students from Hill Freedman Middle School celebrate their classmates' achievements.

J.S. Jenks Elementary School students tour the bus' interior.