Keith Haring was born in Kutztown, Pennsylvania on May 4, 1958. As a child he acquired his basic drawing skills from popular cartoonists Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney. He attended the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh with the intentions of becoming a graphic artist but dropped out two semesters later after his interest in graphic-art changed. He moved to New York City and began school at the School of Visual Arts, a more unconventional style of artistic learning that allowed Haring to flourish. He was in New York where he embraced a community of performance artists and graffiti writers such as: Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. While Haring dabbled in performance art, video, and installations and collage, his most persistent and devoted medium was drawing.
During the early 1980’s, Haring started to use the public as his canvas. He drew in white chalk in the shape of rhythmic lines along the subway. The subway was Haring’s “laboratory.” Haring’s first solo exhibit was in 1982 at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. He became known for his animation for the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square, backdrops in theaters, night clubs, and creating murals all over the world. Pop Shop was a retail store he opened in Soho, selling many of his t-shirts, toys, posters, and buttons. The intentions of Pop Shop was to provide his work at a low cost and attempt to eliminate the essence of exclusivity in the art world. Haring’s work commonly displayed a message. Many of his images were the face of charities, children’s hospitals, orphanages and day-cares.
Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. Shortly after, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, which provided funding and imagery for AIDS organizations. He dedicated the final years of his life to spreading awareness and being an activist of AIDS. Haring died of AIDS on February 16, 1990 at the age of thirty-one.