The work of many young Filipino artists living with autism was recently showcased to celebrate their achievements and bring awareness to their cause.

If you didn’t know, April is Autism Awareness Month. Millions of people around the world suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)—a disorder whose manifestations, as its name suggests, can range from mild, barely noticeable behaviors, to so severe that the person may be completely nonverbal or dependent on a caregiver.

While some people may cast off those with ASD as unable to contribute to society, a group in the Philippines is trying to counter that concept in two ways: By helping kids with special needs, such as ASD, flourish through art, and by teaching awareness that even people with ASD and other special needs can make a difference in a society.

Between April 1–3 this year, there was a special exhibition of artwork by 20 young Filipino artists with ASD. The gallery was located at Green Sun, Makati, in Manila, a “culture and art center built for the discovery and promotion of emerging local creative talents.”

▼ Exhibit coordinator Rachel Harrison and her son, one of the artists, standing in front of his work at the gallery.

12671754_517758628431764_3010694900972575003_oFacebook/Green Sun

The exhibit displayed the work of individual artists, but also the collaborative works of people with ASD and artists from Saturday Group, a long-standing group of professional Filipino artists.

▼ Saturday Group artists working with local youth artists with autism.

10_-_MAKING_ART_TOGETHER_039989D98471474F97FF401653DCABAARachel Harrison

The exhibition was spearheaded by Rachel Harrison, the mother of an artist with ASD, who came up with the theme of “fun and purpose” to share with the world that people with autism can still find joy and purpose in their lives, despite their special needs.

Another artist’s mother, Olive Del Rosario-Medina, said about the event:

“This exhibit showed that with better understanding, love and acceptance, our special needs individuals can become productive members of society. In this exhibit, people would understand that they are truly special, not because of their challenges, but because they can create something of value and beauty.”

▼ What beauty they did create!

12890923_517758661765094_9024426541209316094_oFacebook/Green Sun

▼ This is Enzo Medina, who was diagnosed with ASD at two, and at 14 years of age is non-verbal. However, after starting to paint with oil and acrylics, he has come to be able to express himself in a calm and beautiful way.

2_-_Artist_at_work_4D0E8700D9FD4359B771FF91C632A335Olive Del Rosario-Medina

▼ Enzo created this with the help of Aika Yamashita of the Saturday Group. Enzo started the painting off and Aika helped him finish it. He loves the outdoors, so he likes painting animals and nature.

11_-_RED_CRAB_73CCE4E98577474B8DE6CE3B7E2B2C51Rachel Harrison

▼ Twenty-nine-year-old JA Tan, a Filipino-Canadian artist with autism whose work “Victory” (left) was one of eight works chosen to be a United Nations stamp.

4_-_Victory_67BC93187B1A424F84B5596B3D7C6B8APeter Imbong

▼ In this work, Tan wanted to “€˜Present the viewer a picture of how someone like me [with autism] thinks, feels, and interacts.”

3_-_Expression_1A4FC6E3FD9F4C5FB62A2CC26C3F6AC5Rachel Harrison

▼ This is “Learn to Fish” by Julyan Harrison, who draws his inspiration from the ocean.

5_-_Learn_to_Fish_4074D8837555478794EEB4B9E7C77743Rachel Harrison

▼ “Zambatique Sunset” by Saturday Group artist Anna de Leon Marcelo and student artist W. Tinsay

13_-_Zambatique_Sunset_2D975F2CF07C45329D2E858F25354102Rachel Harrison

▼ This vibrant work was painted by 19-year-old artist with autism Samantha Kaspar.

7_-_Landscape_ACC4F46903214D549E815C84ED10114C Rachel Harrison

▼ Matthew Aragon, a well-known artist with autism shared his work with the exhibition, as well.

8_-_Butterflies_39B8B324F6AA49BFB4CCEECD632B3BFA Rachel Harrison

The proceeds from the event are going toward a community art center in San Narciso, Zambales, where people with special needs will have access to both art and vocational training, so they can find their niche and can better integrate into their communities. Harrison, who put on the exhibit, is also behind the community center:

“When you’re an adult, it’s important to have a livelihood, to have a job. Let us not discount the special needs community – they are not useless. They can work in hospitals, be part of an art gallery, souvenir shops, and more.”

It’s always great to see communities coming together to help each other improve and grow. These artists and families are working hard to improve their own skills, but also to help others understand ASD and show that art is a medium through which anyone can express themselves.

Source: Rappler, Green Sun
Top Image: Photo by Rachel Harrison, artwork by Enzo Medina with Saturday Group artists Buds Convocar, Ding Hidalgo, Rose Gisbert, and Robert Deniega.
All Images: via Rappler