women's print herstory month girls who print

Name: Barbara Chandler Allen

Title: President & CEO

Company: Fresh Artists

Company URL:  freshartists.org

Please share advice for young women considering or starting a career in print… Which includes design, sales, marketing, and all jobs within. 

Fresh Artists is a nonprofit organization that introduces youngsters 3 to 12th grade to careers in the creative print industry.  With the generous support of SGIA and leading printer manufacturers in the wide-format digital print industry, we founded a print studio to provide groundbreaking turnkey corporate art programs featuring huge blow-ups of K-12 children’s artwork in Fortune 500 corporations. The corporations make financial donations to Fresh Artists, a 501-c-3, which delivers art-making materials and programs to severely underfunded public schools throughout America.

As soon as we opened our Print Studio, with the original donation of HP and Mutoh wide format printers, we developed Big Art: hands-on studio workshops in digital printing, introducing young teens to careers they never knew existed. Kids come in for 3 to 4-hour workshops where they scan, print, color-correct, print roll-to-roll, flatbed direct to substrate, and dye-sublimation on fabric and clothing. They bring in their artwork and transform it into throw pillows, t-shirts, totes, mugs, phone cases, laptop skins, and….of course….giant prints on Ultraboard for their bedrooms!  Sometimes the art was too large to fit into their apartments!!

The girls always stood out in our studio experiences. They positively DIVE into the tasks. They take to In-Design like puppies to mud, and handle the large heat press like they’re touching up a skirt to wear to church! BEING a girl, I always relish a group of young girls coming into a workshop. They bloom when they experience the before and after of a printing job, following each stage closely and jockeying for a chance to try it themselves. It’s kinda magic, and the kids leave the workshop convinced this is what they want to be.

It was such a consistent transformation of “show them then stand back” that it led to a bigger initiative – Cool Jobs! Although printer, digital, and screen printers, as well as designers, architects, chefs, fine art conservators, and art therapists now fill the annual roster of our Cool Job Expo introducing 600 kids, all at extreme risk of dropping out of school after 8th grade, to fabulous, successful, kind people who go to work every day to design, make, decorate, or market products in the creative economy. All you need is a KONA Cutter and you can literally mesmerize children. Showing them how to kiss-cut decals and they are enraptured.

The consistent advice I give to young people is to volunteer. Volunteering gets you right into the belly of any beast. To give something of yourself is the golden ticket to get inside fascinating places, businesses, and organizations. Interestingly, it’s the same advice I give to the hundreds of older people who are retiring and seeking Their Next Big Thing while they still have their health and mobility.

But no one in our public schools is introducing the World of Printing to kids at any level of school. There is only 1 school in Philadelphia that claims it has a concentration in “Printing”….a high school in a rough part of town. I was invited to sit on their community careers board but soon grew weary of their extremely limited offerings in Print.

One ginormous digital photocopy machine the size of a small carwash that folds and staples. The only product these kids turn out are flyers for the local bodega, calendars, and church programs. We bring those kids into Fresh Artists and blow their minds. They practically implode when given a demonstration of a vehicle wrap.

Axis Graphics is a partner of ours and they do live wraps of a Smart Car (remember them!) in front of 50 – 60  kids sitting on the floor, mouths open and you could hear a pin drop. When we talk about certification and starting salaries, the deal is sealed. It is a glossy (literally), dynamic, and kinda-sorta dangerous job that leaves a vehicle MAG-NIF-ICENT!  Although I personally think the deal setter is the flame gun!

Bottom line….we need to show giga-thousands of kids (especially the girls!) that there are fun, fascinating, and sustainable printing jobs in the creative economy. And they can have one if they stay in school, choose a creative themed high school, and seek every possible weekend, after-school and summer internship, volunteer job or classes to learn more and more skills (like Photoshop and In-Design!) – all of which should be taught as consistently as English and Math – starting in 3rd grade!

I will leave you all with this: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of America’s schoolchildren will eventually be employed in jobs that have yet to be created.

An arts education, that includes a robust and hands-on introduction to real jobs in the creative economy, teaches 21st-century skills for a new, entrepreneurial economy: critical thinking, creative problem-solving, risk-taking, collaboration, and innovation.

 How have mentors helped your personal and career development?

My mantra is:

“Some people cross your path and change your whole direction.”


– let me hang around and experiment.

– let me use their toys and tools to be entrepreneurial

– encourage me to explore new avenues for digital printing as a tool and a tease to attract, engage, and ultimately INSPIRE young people in danger of falling off the edge of their earth. Mentors CAN change their trajectories and help them discover and build a job to love….for life.

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