Keith Haring Presentation

Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was raised in nearby Kutztown, Pennsylvania. He developed a love for drawing at a very early age, learning basic cartooning skills from his father and from the popular culture around him, such as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney.Image

Haring moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). In New York, Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways and spaces in clubs and former dance halls. Here he became friends with fellow artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as the musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers that comprised the burgeoning art community. Haring was swept up in the energy and spirit of this scene and began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and other alternative venues.


Around 1980, Haring became inspired by “cut-up” art-or word juxtaposition-techniques. Using headline type gathered from the New York Post, he created a series of fake headline pieces with absurd messages such as “REGAN SLAIN BY HERO COP”, “REGAN’S DEATH COP HUNTS POPE”, and “POPE KILLED FOR FREED HOSTAGE”. He xeroxed hundreds of copies of these and pasted them onto lampposts throughout Manhattan Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981.Image

Throughout his career, Haring devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages. The now famous Crack is Wack mural of 1986 has become a landmark along New York’s FDR Drive.

Keith Haring’s work is a great example of taking over public spaces with art to make a statement. That is exactly what we did with our Debt Fence. I think that Haring was able to use very unique mediums that grab people’s attention during their day-to-day routines. For example, his fake newspaper headlines caught people’s attention and made them think and could be placed in multiple areas around New York City. Those cutouts are similar to our signage. We were able to post them around school on bulletin boards and also on our fence to grab students attention on their way to class. ImageStudents are used to looking at posters for ads for different events on campus and I think having literature in the same format to promote information on student debt is both surprising and effective.

For more information on Keith Haring check out this PowerPoint presentation done by Erica and myself.


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Great Job this Semester!


            During my time working on our independent study, I have learned a lot about taking initiative, group planning, creating dialogue, and group activism. The most positive learning moment for me was after I gave the workshop to my staff, I felt a huge sense of empowerment. I really felt like creating that dialogue opened some of my staff member’s eyes on this subject. This was the first time a lot of them heard about the student debt crisis. Also, students who were in debt said they felt really good about finally being able to talk about this problem with others. This was a really huge moment for me and I feel like having that 30-minute discussion actually did impact others.  Also, the amount of knowledge I feel like I have now on this subject is also really empowering. Since my time in this independent study group, I have learned so much about student debt. I have also learned a lot about my personal situation and I feel much more in power then ever before.

            I think my biggest challenge was trying to continue giving my workshops. We had so many issues come up with scheduling staff meetings that it was hard to keep reminding my staff. Also, getting my floor involved was hard too. My floor is very quiet and sometimes ant-social, so if there isn’t free food involved, the wont usually pay attention to announcements or events.

            In terms of what might be different, I would say, maybe have one or two major projects for the whole group to work on as a whole for the entire semester. I feel like our group split too many different projects up. For example, the Elizabeth Warren video, the debt fence, workshops, and tabling seemed a bit overwhelming. I think that it would be easier for us to focus on fewer projects and major goals.

            To carry this project on, I would say keep the Facebook page going! We seem to have a good following so far and it would be great to add on to it and not lose what we have created this far. The debt fence is also a great way to spread awareness and I think next semester, adding more debt fences around campus could really affect our campus and community as a whole.



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Poor UMass Student

twitter In creating the Twitter handle, Poor UMass Student we have come to realize the great power social networking holds. In using this account to promote our marketing campaign we were also able to produce a kind of personality in our messages. There is a mixture of relatable, informative, and humorous tweets that take over Poor UMass Student. Our first endeavor was to gain an audience; this is where our relatable tweets came in. We targeted UMass students directly and live tweeted things that were happening around campus, or in classrooms. This allowed students to make a connection with our twitter, and kept them wanting to see more.
For future continuance of the Twitter, I believe it would be helpful to continue the personality we have connected to the account. It is helpful to keep up with informative and updated information about student debt, but to also keep a humorous edge. This is what keeps the following. It was also really fun; it allowed us to express our feelings on what was going on around us. It was a great way to vent about the construction that was limiting our walking paths, or the ticket you would receive for live parking more than 15 minutes.
The process of each tweet was simple, but at the same time challenging. You would think of something relating to the debt crisis, but you would have to word it in a specific way, relating to the followers, keeping them entertained, all in 140 characters. It was definitely a learning process. It was really great however to see the feedback would get, and the retweets, favorites, and replies to some of our funnier tweeting activity. We really enjoyed taking part in the Twitter aspect of the Debt Fence, we also thought it was an excellent way to get the word out about what we were doing.

Some of our favorite Tweets!
You know you officially hit rock bottom when you took out a student loan for spring break ‪#helpmeimpoor

“Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got..” but you actually can be. ‪#theyallfakeyo

PSA: Cumberland Farms is selling 32 fl oz Powerade buy one get one free. Curing tomorrow and Sunday’s hangover for one price. Can’t beat it

My life is ‪#HBOGirls, frumpy, grumpy and poor, just missing the Lena Dunhams salary and that Grammy ‪#socloseyetsofaraway

Had a dream last night that I logged onto to Spire and right under the Pell grant was Spring Break grant and a Party Package loan

Is there a discount if I take all my classes pass/fail? ‪#UMassProblems

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Graduating To Debt

By: Rebecca Bender

After this long activist journey I have learned a lot. One thing i have learned are the challenges that come with making a movement. Many times students voices where not able to be heard. To try to make students voices heard i did the one thing many people don’t do, i asked. I set up a list of questions and sent it out to students who have graduated, students who are attending school, and students who plan to attend. When i received their feedback i made sure to read them over carefully. I was very pleased with my results but not exactly sure what to do with them. I made some into signage and even used some of the phrases people used such as “i feel locked up” and “im still a broke college student” to inspire my signage. The debt fence was a great way for students to be heard. I even found some statistics and facts that i posted to help make students aware. Not only did the debt fence help but i actively posted interesting articles and pictures on the Facebook page. This allowed the information to be shared and allowed for others to leave feedback. I hope the Facebook page continues and i plan to still post interesting articles when i find them.

Many of the testimonies from students included a lot about how they were unaware of how much college would really cost and how difficult it is to find a job after. With the education we receive you think they would make it easier for students to get a job. I think with how much you pay for a degree college should help set you up with a job for when you graduate. Students also need to be aware of what they are getting themselves into. In highschool they should inform you more how much an education really does cost. Another issue many of these testimonies included were that college needs to be at a more affordable rate. I even recently found an article about how students are choosing not to go to private schools even if they are accepted because they just can afford this and it is not looked like as a benefit but more so of a cost. Something needs to be done to make higher education more affordable.

If i had more time to do more with these testimonies i have a few things in mind of what i would do. I would have them be video testimonies, more in an interview from. I could then piece it together to make a longer video with multiple testimonies. I also would include them more on the Facebook page in hopes that they would cause others to respond. The mug shot idea was also really interesting. I just think that is something that would have to be done in person and very well-organized, it could cause a lot of positive feedback though. The possibilities are endless of what could be done i just with there was more time in the semester.

overall i believe our activist movement was successful. It created motion and got attention on campus both good and bad. At the beginning though, i was unaware of how this then did become an activist movement and i wish i had more direction at the beginning. I had never been put into a class where we were able to lead ourselves. I think there should be more independent studies rather than just the structured class room we are all so use too. I really enjoyed this class and got a lot out of it. I am going to miss UMass but i am very grateful for the experience i have gained but not thankful for the debt i have attained.

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The Guerrilla Girls – Lauren

The Guerrilla Girls have been a New York-based feminist collective since 1985. They
focus on diversifying art world representations and opportunities for all female, queer, and

Imagewomen of color artists through their artistic protests. The Guerrilla Girls started to make some noise in 1985 when only 13 out of 169 pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art were made by female artists. They wear masks not only to protect their anonymity but also, in a bizarre turn of events, to be taken more seriously. Somewhere along the way they figured out that the guerrilla masks were functioning to erase their femininity in public settings, appearing more masculine. What this meant was that when their femaleness was erased, many people were more likely to listen to what they were saying—which is validation enough for the importance of the work they’re doing.

In an interview with Interview Magazine, one of the Guerrilla Girls commented, “We discovered that the art world takes feminists more seriously when they use humor and wear a gorilla disguise. Pathetic! We think of it as our masculinity.” When the interviewer proceeded to ask if the Guerrilla Girls were done yet because it seemed as though we’ve Imagecome along way since 1985, she responded, “In 2011, we did our latest recount. We were sure things had improved, but surprise! Only 4% of the artists in the Modern and Contemporary sections were women, but 76% of the nudes were female. Fewer women artists, more naked males. Is this progress? Guess we can’t put our masks away yet.”

The Guerrilla Girls continue to be an inspiration for activists and movements that have come after them. Their approach, which uses humor, facts, and visuals like large scale billboards and posters, are tactics that many movements can emulate. For instance, the Occupy Movement’s use of Guy Fawkes masks as well as their peaceful and artistic protests share a lot of similarities with the Guerrilla Girls’ tactics.


These are tactics that we can all easily use as a model for our own causes. In regards to the Debt Fence I think there is a huge opportunity here, based on what the Guerrilla Girls have done. One of their most famous pieces is the billboard they put up displaying facts about the percentage of female artists and female nudes in the MET. Their use of bright signature colors (yellow and pink) in conjunction with black and white photographs and text is easily identifiable and resonates with a lot of people. It is both easy to read and impactful. I think there is a great opportunity here—proving we have the materials—to do billboard campaign around Umass in as big of a scale as we can. I also think there’s a lot to be said about the way the Guerrilla Girls work: they go off in the night and while people are sleeping they are working. They prepare their materials ahead of time and come morning, there are art installments so large and so graphically strong that they can’t be missed during anyone’s commute to work.

Image Image

(Left: Guerrilla Girls Piece, on the right my own piece inspired by them.)

The locations they pick are busy and they are smart about where they can and can’t put art installations. They also write letters to people, such as Interview Magazine, that functionImage as faux Thank You’s, with text like, “we know that you feel terrible about this and will rectify the situation immediately.” I believe CEPA does similar letters like this addressed to senators around student debt—but what if we did this (anonymously) to people on the board at Umass, and other people who occupy higher up positions at the University? What if we even sent these letters to alumni who donate large amounts to the University every year and suggested maybe that they pressure and push the school for more scholarships, grants, and, and just overall more affordable education? I’m not sure about previous Umass graduates, but I have a feeling that my graduating class, like the few before and after us, might be willing to do this as we face our own student debt.

Finally, their use of faux magazines and Mad Lib letter Fill-Ins that are easily addressed to whatever institution or person and calls them to correct the situation themselves, are also humorous and useful tactics we could use around campus in order to engage the student body. Even if we made the Mad-Lib a tear-out page in the magazine, this could engage the Umass Campus like never before. Many who read the Collegian, and well as those who don’t and might be more likely to pick up a magazine, could be reached by providing humorous as well as harder hitting articles about the economic squeeze, what’s wrong, what we can do about it, and how to join the movement.


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Final Work on Keith Haring

Keith Haring was an artist who made a name for himself as a homosexual cartoonist and sculptor up until the late 1980’s before he died of AIDS related complications in 1990.  Throughout his work, Haring expressed concepts of birth, death, sex, and war. ImageHe became inspired by “cut-up” art or word juxtaposition-techniques that he referred to as “Smart Art.”  Keith Haring has very few role models that were out-of-the-closet gay American artists to point him toward a way to be gay and an an artist in America.  Despite the few markers along his route, haring found the way to make in-your-face, proud-to-be-gay, homoerotically explicit artworks.  He said that being mortally ill had given him a new appreciation of life.

In a ‘Rolling Stone’ interview, a year before Haring’s death in 1990, he said, “When I paint, it is an experience that, at its best, is transcending reality.  When it is working, you completely go to another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, of the total consciousness, completely beyond your ego and your own self.” He was a man who stood up for what he believed in without a care in the world.  Haring was all about having his work mean something and allowing it to make a lasting impression.  In a Macweek interview, in 1989, Haring said “I like the idea that my art could be on a floppy disk and you couldImage send the floppy disk back and forth or even send the information by telephone.  If I had a bank of images on tape or floppy disk, someone could take those images as a starting point, the raw material, and do whatever they want with them and take the head off one thing and put it on something else and change the color.”

Haring’s official debut as a sculptor came on October 26, 1985, when a series of free-standing figures, cut from steel and brightly lacquered, went on view at Leo Castelli’s Green Street gallery in New York. Image The hundred-foot side walls were covered with a frieze of carbon characters that, to Castelli’s astonishment, Haring completed in a single day.  During the next five years, Haring would greatly extend his sculptural repertoire, revealing waxing confidence and an eagerness to experiment with 3-D forms.


More information about Keith Haring can be seen in my powerpoint presentation in collaboration with Jackie.

Thank you for a great year Joel!

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Thank you all for a great semester! – Lauren

Overall this independent study has been a huge learning experience for me. I think engaging in an independent study helped me to transition into real life action and got me out of the class room. Because the work was something I cared about and because it was often something I had to make time for outside of classes and work and other commitments, I think it was good to have that motivation and to learn how to continue engaging even after graduation.

When we started this independent study last semester, it was only the two of us and although we didn’t do any art installations ourselves, I feel as though it was an important time for both Joel and I as we figured out where to take this and how we were going to do that. During this time I was able to work on some art that reflected on the issues of student debt and I think that was an important time for me as well because I primarily express myself and figure thing out through doing—writing and art being two of those major ways I’m able to “do” that type of learning.

Major challenges and frustrations in the beginning were primarily around figuring out what we wanted to do, and being a bit divided within the group with what those things were. We never specifically made a mission statement and we never agreed on one main goal. Although one could argue why choose just one goal, I think in a semester long course that one goal is really all you have time for. I also didn’t quite see us as an “activist” group until much later on. Once we re-launched the debt fence I think most of us sort of had that “aha” moment where that felt like this was the type of thing we should have been doing all along. I don’t know about the rest of the group but I don’t really know what works, what I like, or what’s effective until I do it and although it feels as though we figured it out a little late, I think the learning experiences that came out of it were definitely worth it.

If this type of course were to continue it might be helpful to change the approach of some things. I think having the instructor meet once a week is fine, but I also think the students should meet once a week by themselves, even if just for a half an hour, and decide what they want to do, work on projects together, and brainstorm together instead of alone. I think this will enhance our sense of community and responsibility to each other as well as allow us to get to know each other better.

I like the idea of blog posts and making signage, and I even like our idea of having separate committees for different projects (ie. video letter). However, it might be useful to have the entire group focus on one thing collectively and diverge from there so that everyone is involved in one thing together, increasing overall communication. You could also take written feedback every couple of weeks because people might be more inclined to suggest something on paper than in person. It also might not be a question they thought about until prompted.

On campus I think the independent study environment, although slightly flawed, seems to be the only viable way to continue something like this because I can’t imagine people doing it without credit (although people join CEPA and PHENOM). I also think maybe talking to someone at either of the previously mentioned coalitions could help steer us in the right direction. Around campus I think the Debt Fence should become an annual thing, even if it is just Joel’s class that goes out during campus BBQ week at Umass and puts some signage up. I think it’s a good reminder and there is an opportunity to establish a presence for us here on campus this way.

As far as myself continuing this project next year, I would love to lend my talents but I’m afraid it will be mostly virtually and via emails. However, once I get situated, as I still do not have a job and that is my main (and frightening) priority at the moment, I will reach out and see what is doable in terms of my commitment to the group.

Thank you for a fantastic semester, all of you. A huge thank you to Joel for allowing me to explore my art at my own pace and for pushing us when we needed it.


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