Keith Haring: A Legacy Remembered

Keith Haring’s art has many valuable themes that are still relevant to many of us today: equality, tolerance, and the importance of understanding and respecting the diversity of humankind.

Keith Harings artwork intends to deliver a powerful message in beauty.


Keith Haring’s artwork intends to deliver a powerful message in beauty.

Roya Ghahreman, Columnist

According to the Keith Haring Foundation , Keith Haring was born May 4, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania to parents Joanne and Allen Haring, along with his three siblings. It was reported by his family that at a very young age he had taken to drawing, and that self-expression was always something that mattered to him. Haring briefly enrolled in the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburg but, after realizing he didn’t want a career in commercial arts, he dropped out. He later enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he quickly became enamored with the art community within the city, which was flourishing outside of galleries and instead on sidewalks and street corners. Haring quickly began to showcase his art at alternative venues such as Club 57, where he began to gain a voice in his artistic expression.

According to the Keith Haring Foundation,  Haring’s form of art was centered around human diversity, importance, and strength of spirit in the face of oppression. In order to test his ideas out for pieces, he would often use the subways of New York City as canvases, which also worked to help his art gain more recognition. He held his first solo exhibit in New York in 1981 and shortly thereafter was introduced to large-scale international success, being recognized by various art organizations. Later on in his career, he was also commissioned to do various murals and design jobs for theater companies, which helped to further his creative identity and range of work as a well-recognized artist. Perhaps the most important part of his work, however, were the messages he chose to convey. Haring was openly gay and, being alive during the AIDS and HIV crisis, he had a lot of influence on his work as he introduced many sex-postive and tolerant themes into the pieces he created.

Not only was he a huge advocate for LGBTQ rights, but he thought it was important to be able to remember and pay homage to all walks of life. Whether it was acknowledging the beauty of modern femininity or talking about the oppression of black communities in the U.S, the themes were seen across his over 50 public works, displayed on street corners as well as orphanages, charities, and hospitals. He was diagnosed with AIDs in 1988, and made sure to be very public about his struggle in hopes that he would be able to rally more support for AIDs organizations and children’s centers, which lead to the establishment of the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989.

Haring, devastatingly, passed away in 1990 from AIDs, but his creative spirit lives on through his artwork, still displayed in galleries all around the world. Haring’s ambition and boldness in his work, depicting everything from love and death to the devastation of the minority communities, demonstrates that his voice was one of passion. He clearly had an unadulterated desire to give everyone a voice through his depiction of their struggles and how, hopefully one day, humanity would overcome those divides. The Keith Haring Foundation still exists today, and his legacy lives on through the preservation of his message of tolerance and equality, themes that still serve to unite and inspire people today.