Based in SoHo, fresh art is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1999 by a group of people active in social services and the arts, who believed that artists with special needs should be recognized for their talent and not for the obstacles they face in their daily lives. Specifically, fresh art showcases artists with mental, physical and emotional disabilities and those in long-term recovery from chemical dependencies and homelessness.
Suzanne Kreps has been a part of the organization since its inception, originally serving as an advisory board member. She took over the role of executive director in 2003. Born in Lancaster, Pennslyvania, Suzanne earned her B.S. in Art Education from the prestigious Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia. In the 1970s, she came to Manhattan to attend NYU for her Master of Arts degree. “I had this romantic notion of New York,” she fondly recalled. “It just sounded so wonderful to be surrounded by art, and the artists in this cosmopolitan world.” She originally lived in SoHo until the art scene took hold of the area causing the rent prices to skyrocket. She and her partner, Clarke, then decided on moving to the East Village because of the cultural diversity. “You have a good mix of people here and that makes it interesting,” she said. “It’s so diverse and that’s a good thing. If I wanted to live with a homogenized group I’d go back to Pennsylvania.”
Aside from overseeing operations at fresh art (the group’s name is lower case in green letters), Suzanne serves as the art gallery manger for OK Harris Works of Art. Also located in SoHo, the gallery was founded in 1969 by Ivan C. Karp, who was instrumental in launching the careers of pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. “The gallery is known for photo-realism, which is a very precise type of realism,” she shared. “However, we show a variety of styles of art that includes painting, photography, and sculpture.”
Fresh art was founded by Wendy Grossman Warlick, a graduate of The New School For Social Research. Prior to the start of the organization, Wendy created and led arts and recreation programs for two city homeless service agencies: the Bowery Residents’ Committee and the John Heuss House Drop-In Center. Suzanne met Wendy through a mutual friend and her art experience created a natural partnership for their noble cause, initially setting up shop in the West Village. In 2003 Wendy and her family decided to move to Oklahoma leaving Suzanne at the helm. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to take it on because it was so daunting, and I had never taken on the administration of a non-profit,” she said. Concurrently, fresh art was donated prime office space in their present SoHo location by Hospital Audiences, Inc., which also promotes “healing, growth and learning through engagement in the arts for the culturally underserved,” and the coming together just seemed like the right fit.
On a whimsical note, fresh art earns funds through sale of its “sock monkeys.” With socks donated by Ozone Designs and DML Marketing, volunteers create original gifts that are sold online. The sock monkeys are also available for purchase at Pink Olive Boutiques, in the East Village and Brooklyn, and at Green in Bklyn in Clinton Hill. Volunteer Coordinator Molly Gahagan has been donating her time for over ten years because she sees the positive impact on the community. “Through the years I’ve come to really appreciate the cause, and especially the people that are also involved with our organization,” she said. Recently, fresh art conducted a sock monkey sewing workshop with homeless women at the Park Avenue Women’s Shelter in Manhattan. “The women loved it,” said Molly. “They enjoyed sharing in their creativity, and finding their hidden inner talent.”
Suzanne is also instrumental in helping to produce public art exhibitions on site, as well as in venues throughout the city. The artists receive 60 percent of the proceeds from art sales, with the remaining funds going to help cover the costs of exhibitions and other related programs. The next exhibit will be taking place on October 26th at St. Peter’s Church in Midtown, with specific details to be posted on the fresh art website soon. “At the openings, when the artists are there, that’s when I can really see the end results,” she said. “I see what it means to them to have their artwork up and have people appreciate it. I see what it does for their self-esteem.”
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: Chez Suzanne (at home), Cacio e Pepe, 182 Second Avenue
Favorite Place to Shop: Paracelso, a clothing store in SoHo on West Broadway
Favorite New York Sight: At the base of the Temperance Fountain in Tompkins Square Park is a little plaque that says: “Ginger – the best little dog in the world.” I made a donation to the park in memory of our beloved dog.
Favorite New York Moment: The best moments are so fleeting. It’s the moment that you connect with a stranger to laugh at the obscurity of a situation, or shake your heads in wonder.
What You Love About New York: People watching is a great love.
What You Hate About New York: How expensive it is to live here.