Kay Haring: The Woman Who Couldn't Stop Writing

Last Wednesday, Christina and I had the immense honor of sitting down with author Kay Haring.  Kay is the younger sister of artist Keith Haring, whom her newest children’s book is about.  For those of you unfamiliar with Keith’s work, he is one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century.  His ambiguous character drawings captivated the world and, to this day, are some of the more recognizable and inspirational pieces of art.  We wanted to explore Kay’s book, as well as some of her other incredible achievements as an activist.

    Kay’s newest children’s book is entitled Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing.  It tells the story of Keith’s meteoric rise to fame but in a way that not many fans have seen since his passing.  Kay wanted to show that his story was “more than just his art, it’s about the person.”  She sought to display Keith as the person he had been since childhood, a warm and giving person with an unquenchable drive.  She also talked a bit about her decision to not include Keith’s sexuality in the book.  She felt there maybe could have been more of his activism and charity in the book, but she would like to explore that in another project.

    Kay also feels strongly about sharing inspirational nonfiction stories with children.  She shared with us how she always tried to be open and honest with her children, especially when they were younger and he became sick:  “I strongly believe that kids can handle it and we actually do more harm when we don’t talk about things.”  She wants to focus on topics that aren’t often talked about in children’s literature to help spread amazing true stories. As a first go, I think she has set a stellar precedent with this book.

    As Tyler asked Kay more questions regarding Keith and Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, I wanted to focus on Kay herself. Kay had appreciated me focusing on her because, being Keith’s sister, people like to know more about him. It was very clear that Kay loved her brother so much and was a constant support to him, but I saw Kay as her own individual and wanted to know more about about her volunteer work and her work within the non-profit world. Kay has done a lot of work with the Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Reading Musical Foundation, and Planned Parenthood of Hawaii. I wanted to know which non-profit project Kay had done that spoke to her vision and meant the most to her. Kay went on to tell Tyler and me about her work with the Advisory Committee of the Berks County Community Foundation. She told us that a portion of the profits from her book, Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, would go to this foundation. Kay told us stories about her time at this foundation and the project they worked on.The foundation was compiled of high school students from around the county. The committee foundation would then give these students $15,000 to contribute to a problem they see within their youth in the community.  Kay “taught that group of kids fundraising” since that was something she had done before. Kay went on to tell us the role she played and how she got to see each student develop and use their ideas to make a decision for where the money would go. Tyler and I thought this was an amazing project because it’s letting the students make decisions and giving them significant skills they could use throughout their lives.

    I then asked Kay about her volunteer work within the Big Brother/Big Sister community since she was granted the Big Sister Award. Kay loved being a Big Sister and has followed through with her little till this day. Kay “was just consistent and she did it” when it came to spending time and putting in effort with her little. Being a Big Sister was something Kay did when she was younger, but it was clear to me this stuck with her and this volunteer work has carried through with many aspects of her life.

    Interviewing Kay Haring was such a blessing for Tyler and I. We got to know more about Kay herself, while also learning about all that went into her children’s book and the process of publishing it. It was great to learn about Kay’s future plans with her writing and with Keith’s images because her ideas are well thought out, and I think they could be just as big or bigger than Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing