Who is Keith Haring?

Due to the extra challenges people from LGBTQIA+ communities have faced, and continue to face, there aren’t too many queer philanthropists kicking about in the history (aka cis, straight, white, male-story) books. No doubt receiving inheritance or achieving financial success often came on the condition that a given individual stay in the proverbial closet. The numbers may sky rocket if we could count those that weren't 'out', but I guess we will never know.

Because we have two types of Memberships and grants at The Channel (tax-deductible and non tax-deductible) we needed to distinguish between them. Since 'non tax-deductible' hardly rolls off the tongue, we thought this would be a good opportunity to pay homage to the rare and enigmatic (though they are growing in number) beast that is the queer philanthropist.

Enter: Haring Grants and Memberships

Keith Haring was born in 1958 and spent his golden years as an artist in 1980’s New York - rubbing shoulders with the likes of Madonna and Andy Warhol and being suuuper cool. Haring was a talented painter, gay activist and philanthropist. He died of AIDS related complications on February 16, 1990.

The heritage listed Haring Mural on the side of Collingwood College in Melbourne, created during his trip to Australia in 1984.

The heritage listed Haring Mural on the side of Collingwood College in Melbourne, created during his trip to Australia in 1984.

Haring embodied so much of what we believe in here at The Channel. His art was brave and vivid and he wasn’t afraid to make a comment on the injustices of the time through his work. He also established a foundation.

Google Doodle in honour of Haring's 54th birthday.

Google Doodle in honour of Haring's 54th birthday.

Importantly, Haring didn’t wait until he was in the ground to start on his philanthropic journey – another way he reflects The Channel's values (that is, give while you live). During his lifetime, Haring generously contributed his talents and resources to numerous causes. He conducted art workshops with children, created logos and posters for public service agencies, and produced murals, sculptures and paintings to benefit health centres and disadvantaged communities. In 1989, when he established his foundation, it was to ensure that his philanthropic legacy would continue indefinitely.

The Keith Haring Foundation’s mission is ‘to sustain, expand, and protect the legacy of Keith Haring, his art, and his ideals. It supports not-for-profit organisations that assist children, as well as organizations involved in education, research and care related to AIDS’.

The Ravensberger 'Keith Haring: Double Retrospect' puzzle is 17′ x 6′ and has 32,256 pieces. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest puzzle. It was created out of Haring's art works in his memory after he died.

The Ravensberger 'Keith Haring: Double Retrospect' puzzle is 17′ x 6′ and has 32,256 pieces. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest puzzle. It was created out of Haring's art works in his memory after he died.

Haring used his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his illness and to generate activism and awareness about AIDS. Works like Silence = Death (below) helped to give those living with AIDS more visibility at a time when many were suffering in absolute silence, with no voice, no platform and no support from those around them.

Keith Haring's 'Silence=Death', 1989. Figures are laid over a pink triangle, a symbol associated with homosexual men. Originally used during the Holocaust, the pink triangle was used to signify those who were being targeted for their homosexuality. Since then, the symbol has often been reclaimed and re-appropriated by the gay rights movement.

Keith Haring's 'Silence=Death', 1989. Figures are laid over a pink triangle, a symbol associated with homosexual men. Originally used during the Holocaust, the pink triangle was used to signify those who were being targeted for their homosexuality. Since then, the symbol has often been reclaimed and re-appropriated by the gay rights movement.

Haring Memberships are tax deductible. Beginning at just $25 per month, funds raised through Membership donations are distributed in the form of Haring Grants to LGBTQIA+ community organisations in Australia with the goal of changing the way people experience gender and sexuality for the better. Find out more about joining as a Haring Member hereand learn about our first Haring Grant recipient here.

Last but certainly not least, check out Madonna being her bad self in front of Haring's iconic stage visuals in her Sticky and Sweet Tour 2008/9 here and learn more about the Keith Haring Foundation here.

Georgia Mathews is the Executive Director of the Channel Giving CIrcle