Whether one considers oneself to be artistic, there is no denying the power of art—be it in the form of painting, sculpture, photography, or even filmmaking—to serve as a therapeutic outlet for a person’s emotions and mental distress, such as depression or anxiety.
Previously in this space, we took a snapshot at some of the organizations out there, namely The Art of Autism, which seeks to highlight just some of the many exceptional individuals on the autism spectrum, provide an online gallery of the artists’ work, and serve as a forum for discussing issues and topics related to art and autism.
This week, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at the artists, organizations, and campaigns being held around the world.
We start our autism and art tour in Liverpool, England where the Wirral Autistic Society is holding an all-ages competition in which individuals with autism will be able to show off their artistic talents on a national scale in this national art competition.
The theme of the competition is “art and technology” and entrants are urged to demonstrate how art and technology can be combined in the creation of truly one-of-a-kind artworks across every medium imaginable. The artists and their pieces will be judged by autism advocate and art patron Dame Stephanie Shirley, on October 1.
In extrapolating on the relationship between art and autism, competition organizer, Dave Smith, said “People with autism enjoy art because there’s never a right or wrong answer. They can be free to express themselves without fear of being different.”
Heading back to the other side of the Atlantic, if you find yourself in the Lake Minnetonka region of Minnesota in the next couple of weeks, you might want to visit the 35th year of “Art on the Lake” where the artist Thaddeus Jameson, age 31, will display his work.
Jameson was diagnosed with autism at an extremely young age and as his mother Laura Sweeney explains, he had a regressive onset type, which meant that there was a period in which he was unable to communicate. His artwork served as a living parable of his progress, as he moved from wild abstraction to more representational work, leading him to be nominated for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship.
For Jameson, art was truly his therapy and while he was still young, he rejected formalized classes as he didn’t want to be told what to do when he felt so relaxed creating his own artwork.
Finally, let’s take a look at the family of Matt and Sharon Sekosky of Decatur, IL whose son Jarrett was diagnosed with autism as a child. Both Matt and Sharon wanted Jarrett to make a positive contribution to society, regardless of his diagnosis, and eventually he found his true passion in the form of art during his first year of high school.
Jarrett, who is now 20, paints on large canvases and acrylics and held his first solo exhibition, “Finding a Voice through Art”, last month to a crowd of over 500 guests. Jarrett found his therapeutic outlet through the Cancer Care Center of Decatur—the only art therapy studio in the area—where his parents realized how calming painting and drawing were for him.
As a result, they have become advocates for the power of art therapy and urge other parents to consider enrolling their children with autism in an art therapy class on the chance that it might lead them to finding a passion they never knew they had. They intend to use the proceeds from Jarrett’s solo show to fund future art therapy sessions for people with special needs.