As a pioneer in the field of collaborative art for more than 25 years and founder of FingerSmears®, I’m honored to have sparked artistic expression and creative fuel in hundreds of thousands of lives.
Born and raised in Clinton Township, New Jersey, I knew I’d be an artist when I was five years old; the year my grandmother surrounded me with paint and repeated simple but encouraging words, “Don’t be shy with the paint.” A refrain that stuck.
A natural leader and organizer, in 1989 I produced my first multi-artist Montage show out of the Old Mill Inn in Spring Lake Heights, New Jersey. It was a well-received exhibition featured on the front page of the Herald Extra and called, “the most innovative show the Jersey shore has seen in some time” on the local TV news.
The first Montage planted the seed for a trailblazing list of shows, exhibitions, and festivals. I transplanted to San Francisco and invested a small inheritance from my grandmother, coupled with a grant from the Fort Mason Foundation and the Haagen-Dazs Corporation, to produce 94 Montage. The festival showcased 15 diverse area artists and provided a hands-on front-row seat to the creative process for the entire community.
In between shows and events I traveled to South East Asia and Europe, painting my “Faces of the Earth” series through US Servas. My travels were depicted in traditional works and added to the multicultural flavor of the Montage shows.
Cover stories began rolling in and 94 Montage was dubbed “the new, user-friendly art show” by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Petite in size, Sullivan stands tall in the world of art.
Danny Colman, NJ Stage
Forced to worked under the constraints of a tight budget to provide a painting experience for guests over the week-long festival, I invented a collaborative way of painting called FingerSmears®. Incorporating hundreds of painters, FingerSmears® used only one canvas and no brushes.
Since that week in 1994, over 100,000 fingers from around the world have participated in these collaborative paintings. Everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to rock stars and other celebrities have dipped their fingers in paint for me. FingerSmears® continues to shape my career today.
FingerSmears® have raised over $150,000 for charities across the United States, and have been commissioned to commemorate All Star Baseball Games, The US Open, and The National Walk for Epilepsy on the Mall in Washington, DC.
Using the arts to build and anchor communities has repeatedly characterized my work, whether raising funds for the surviving families of September 11th victims, or for hospitals and arts councils. To me, the spirit of community doesn’t stop at our local borders.
A globally-oriented arts curriculum I created in Alta, Wyoming, served as a building block for my largest global art project to date: Mighty Fingers – Facing Change.
Launched in a pilot program at Rutgers University through the Rutgers Future Scholars Program, Mighty Fingers – Facing Change (MFFC) is a two-part experiential art project that has connected and inspired adolescent girls throughout the world. The project is ongoing, and has been produced in various public schools in New Jersey.
Kelly’s amazing art is matched only by her passion for the project. I could not be more pleased by the final product, but the entire process, beginning with the initial meeting with Kelly, was interesting, engaging, and inspiring.
Michael Saffran | New Jersey Education Association
A life-long facilitator of creative expression, my art celebrates the complexity and energy of real life in layers of evocative color, emotion, and texture that is distinctly present in my paintings, public murals, and collaborative canvases.