Kutztown University opens Keith Haring Fitness Court

Even before the ribbon was snipped by a half-dozen pairs of golden scissors, the Keith Haring Fitness Court was abuzz with activity.

Students from Kutztown University’s sports management program wandered around the 32-foot-by-35-foot outdoor space, studying the 30 pieces of body-weight fitness elements it contained.

Some of those elements were simple and self-explanatory, and the students jumped right in doing pull-ups or dips or hopping atop boxes. Others required a bit more inspection and explanation, their intended use confounding the students.

Surrounding them all was brightly colored, energetic pieces of Haring’s unique and distinctive artwork.

“You don’t usually see a lot of artwork inside a gym,” Morgan Hurd, a senior from Allentown, said as she gazed at the late pop artist’s work.

But that’s kind of the whole point.

Kutztown University hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Keith Haring Fitness Court on Friday afternoon. The facility is partially a place to work out and partially an outdoor piece of art honoring one of Kutztown’s favorite sons.

Members of the Haring family, students, college officials and state officials cut the ribbon during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Members of the Haring family, students, college officials and state officials cut the ribbon during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Haring, who passed away in 1990, was born and raised in Kutztown. He became a fixture in the New York art scene in the 1980s, creating illustrations that grew out of the city’s street culture.

The new fitness course is covered with replications of those colorful images.

The court is on Kutztown’s campus at the corner of Baldy Street and Normal Avenue. Its creation was a joint venture of the university and the Kutztown Community Partnership.

The $200,000 project was built with the help of several donations, as well as $100,000 in state funding.

During Friday’s ceremony, school and community leaders expressed pride and excitement about fitness court.

KU President Kenneth Hawkins called it a world class, one-of-a-kind facility that will promote health and wellness in the Kutztown community. He said Haring’s influence can be found in every aspect of the court through the widely recognized visual language the artist created.

State Sen. Judy Schwank, who helped secure the state funding for the project, said the fitness court is yet another unique element that makes Kutztown special.

“Is Kutztown not the coolest town in Pennsylvania?” she said, eliciting excited applause. “Definitely. Definitely.”

Schwank call the court a transformational project, one that conveys Haring’s energy and activism. She said Haring was always eager to support worthy causes with his time and talent, adding that she felt he would love supporting community health through the court.

Allen Haring, Keith Haring's father, right, and Kutztown University President Kenneth S. Hawkinson watch Chase Spencer, 20, a junior from Mays Landing, N.J., do a push-up variant on the rings during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Allen Haring, Keith Haring’s father, right, and Kutztown University President Kenneth S. Hawkinson watch Chase Spencer, 20, a junior from Mays Landing, N.J., do a push-up variant on the rings during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Yenna Hill, Haring’s niece, also thought her uncle would have enjoyed Friday’s event.

“This would make him so happy,” she said as she watched students explore the court’s equipment. “He would be so happy.”

Hill said Haring’s family was thrilled to see the fitness court come to fruition, as well as to witness the large, eager crowd that gathered to see it officially opened.

As for seeing Haring’s artwork displayed, yet again, in Kutztown, Hill said it is still moving even though it has become somewhat commonplace.

“It’s pretty surreal,” she said. “But it’s just the way things are. It’s surreal, and it’s exciting.”

Allen Haring, Haring’s father, said he was taken by how all the equipment works.

“I was impressed with the mechanics of it all,” he said.

Of course, he was also glad his son’s artwork will bring a little joy and happiness to those exercising at the court.

“All the images certainly brighten it up,” he said. “It adds some gaiety to it.”

Allen Haring, Keith Haring's father, left, acknowledges the appreciation of the gathering along wih other members of his family during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Allen Haring, Keith Haring’s father, left, acknowledges the appreciation of the gathering along with other family members during dedication ceremonies Friday at the Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Hurd agreed, saying the vibrant colors create an energetic space.

“It’s not something I expected to be built here,” she said. “But now that is is, I think we needed it here.”

Hurd, who served as the student liaison to the project, said she’s excited to see how many different uses people find for the fitness court. She said she expects events to be held their and for it to be used by students and members of the community.

Chases Spencer said he saw the fitness court as an appealing alternative to spending time inside a traditional gym.

“Honestly, I love it. It’s great,” the junior from New Jersey said. “If it’s a beautiful day like today, I want to be outside.”

While Spencer, like many of the other students, hadn’t figured out how to use every aspect of the court, he said his early favorite spot is a set of push-up bars installed at different heights and angles.

“There are so many variations, you can work out so many different things,” he said.

The Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The Keith Haring Fitness Court on the campus of Kutztown University. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

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