Paint can from Keith Haring’s visit to ArtCenter 30 years ago gifted to College

© Steven A. Heller/ArtCenter College of Design (Pasadena, Calif).

© Steven A. Heller/ArtCenter College of Design (Pasadena, Calif).

The Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) invites the community to celebrate and reflect on Haring’s impact on the College and world at large on Monday, December 2, from 11 am – 2 pm, in the lobby outside the library, where the paint can will be making its on-campus debut. 

Thirty years ago, prolific artist and social activist Keith Haring visited ArtCenter and, over the course of two days, painted the mural that graces the stairwell across from the library on our Hillside Campus. Intended serve as a “permanent memorial to members of the art community who have died of AIDS and as a symbol of hope and compassion,” the mural was completed as part of the first-ever Day Without Art, held in conjunction with the second annual World AIDS Day (then called AIDS Awareness Day). Haring’s mural also serves as a memorial tribute to the artist himself, who passed away two months later from AIDS-related complications.

We celebrate Haring, his memory and his contributions both to ArtCenter and the world at large every December 1 and, over the years, we have learned more about him and his visit to our Campus. In 2013, we sent out a call to our community to search for lost video footage of his visit and we were rewarded in 2015 when, following a tip, we tracked down Photography alum Hadi Salehi, who had recently digitized his Super8 video of Haring painting at ArtCenter. An edited version of the video is currently playing on the College monitors, leading up to World AIDS Day this December 1.

Haring’s mural served as inspiration for OUTSIDE/IN: The Ascendance of Street Art in Visual Culture, a group exhibition that spanned both campuses and resulted in two new murals on our South Campus, RISK’s color explosion that covers the north wall of the Graduate Art Complex and the unmistakably Kenny Scharf mural that adorns the elevator shaft atop the 950 building. Providing another connection, Scharf and Haring were lifelong friends, having met in New York when they were both art students.

Haring’s visit to the College was covered by the Los Angeles Times and noted in the New York Times. People who were there remember watching him paint as an experience of a lifetime.

One of those people was then student Doug Aitken, now a renowned artist in his own right whose multimedia work challenges and experiments with how art relates with the viewer—sharing with street artists the concept of bringing art to the people.

An alum (BFA 91), Aitken was recently honored by the College when he was chosen as this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. At the Alumni Awards dinner, Aitken reflected on how, as a student, he was asked to assist artist and activist Keith Haring while he painted a mural at the College. “As a parting gift, Keith gave Doug his leftover paint cans—one of which Doug’s mother recently found in their garage. Doug, in turn, gave the paint can back to ArtCenter during the celebration,” relates Marketing and Communications’ Jered Gold, who adds that the College is exploring ways to display the paint can near the mural itself.

Haring’s mural is part of our daily lives—it is one of the most memorable spaces on campus, it is fondly remembered by alumni, it’s a meeting place, an Instagram backdrop and a reminder of the power of art. It’s by any measure one of the College’s treasures.

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