Kutztown University will receive $100,000 in state grant funding to support the much-anticipated Keith Haring Fitness Park, thanks to advocacy from State Sen. Judy Schwank, the university announced at a press conference Thursday. The park is set to open this fall.
Kutztown University is partnering with Kutztown Community Partnership to bring a world-class, one-of-a-kind Keith Haring Fitness Park to campus to help promote health and wellness in the Kutztown community. The interactive fitness park will be located on the corner of Baldy Street and Normal Avenue, on the KU campus, where Haring’s art will be integrated into every element.
“It’s not every day a project this unique comes across my desk,” said Schwank. “The Keith Haring Fitness Park not only celebrates the artwork and legacy of one of Berks County’s most famous sons, but it also promotes healthy living and will greatly benefit the surrounding community. You can really feel the excitement around this project and I’m very proud to have played a part in securing a portion of the funding needed to bring the fitness park to Kutztown.”
The Keith Haring Fitness Collection is a limited edition, outdoor, public art collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation in New York and Outdoor Fitness Court and the National Fitness Campaign. The fitness court will feature a 32’x35′ outdoor bodyweight circuit training system with 30 pieces of body-weight fitness elements, including seven full-body circuit training stations and a body-weight training wall.
The Kutztown Community Partnership and Kutztown University have been instrumental in making this fitness park a reality. KU will pour a concrete pad for the NFC team to install this custom, world-class fitness park. The park is set to be ready in the fall of 2022 and will feature Haring’s iconic dancing figures designs.
“Senator Schwank has been someone this university and the entire Kutztown community can rely on since her election to the State Senate in 2011, and before that during her two terms as a Berks County Commissioner,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Hawkinson, university president.
“As a State Legislator, Senator Schwank serves on the PASSHE Board of Governors and has been a strong advocate for higher education and the opportunities it provides to our citizens and its importance in the development of our commonwealth. We are grateful for her support of this initiative.”
Haring was a legendary activist and artist who revolutionized pop art through his graffiti-like pieces full of abstract lines and colorful flairs. His 1980s illustrations grew out of the New York street culture and has become a widely recognized visual language to many.
“Thank you to Senator Schwank and her staff for their support and generosity,” said Sandy Green, community liaison and government relations assistant at Kutztown University. “Students, faculty, staff and community members will have the opportunity to take advantage of the Keith Haring Outdoor Fitness Park. Fitness is a primary pillar of health and anything we can do to make it more fun, beautiful and accessible to everyone is a win for the Kutztown community.”
This project is an incredible opportunity for the Kutztown community to pay reverence to one of its native sons, as Haring was born and raised in Kutztown, Pa. Despite his worldwide fame, Haring always stayed true to his roots and would often refer to himself as “Keith from Kutztown.”
Haring went to Kutztown High School and his legacy lives on throughout the borough of Kutztown. To recognize and honor the love he had for his hometown, Haring gifted the ‘Untitled (Figure Balancing on Dog)’ to Kutztown Park in the early 90s, where the sculpture remains today. More of his iconic art can be found on a floor mural in the New Arts Program building nestled right on Main Street, where it is preserved under coats of polyurethane.
Haring also gifted a 1984 drawing of the Nativity scene to Kutztown’s St. John’s United Church of Christ, where he was baptized as an infant. Haring lived next door and went to what used to be the Kutztown Middle School but was purchased in 1979 to become the home of the Kutztown Area Historical Society.
Located at 212 S. Whiteoak Street, the Historical Society features original Haring art drawn on several chalkboards that are protected under plexiglass. His elementary art can also be found lingering in the halls of the buildings of the Kutztown School District. In November 2021, Haring’s niece, Yenna Hill, designed a mural on the side of Young One’s Records building, located at 26 S. Whiteoak Street in Kutztown.
The mural was then painted by community members, student artists and some of Haring’s family members. Among Haring’s family members who were present and contributed to this mural were Haring’s father, Allen, his sister, Karen DeLong, and his great aunt.
The cost of bringing this project to campus is $200,000 plus maintenance costs. The KU Foundation is actively raising funds and accepting inquiries for sponsorships. There are different sponsorship levels; the title sponsor will have their name placed below Keith Haring’s signature in the fitness park. Support the project at https://give.classy.org/fitnesscourt.