JHU Montgomery County, Madison House Autism Foundation Showcase Talents of Artists with Autism
by Aliyah DeVille
Autistic. Artistic. A Life Ahead.
That was the phrase that served as the guide for the JHU - Madison House Autism Foundation art show reception on March 29. The show, which is on display in the 9605 Building Atrium and A&R Food for Thought Café, served as a kickoff for Autism Awareness month in April and featured work from more than 30 artists 17 and older who have been diagnosed as autistic.
During her welcome, co-founder and CEO of Madison House JaLynn Prince related to the feeling many parents have of being helpless when it comes to taking care of their child with autism. With a new statistic released the day of the reception that it’s now one in 88 children who will be diagnosed with the disorder, Prince stressed the importance of raising community awareness about the struggles of those on the spectrum.
“Every one of you will encounter someone with autism,” she said.
Artwork included in the show runs the gamut from photography to oil on canvas and everything in between. As an additional layer of the evening’s festivities, Dan Fairbanks, a geneticist, Associate Dean at Utah Valley University, and sculptor, was on hand to sculpt Jane Salzano, the founder of the Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, as attendees looked on. Fairbanks most often sculpts his adult son who he describes as “severely autistic.”
Internationally acclaimed photographer Christopher Gauthiér also undertook an art project during the reception. He photographed more than 40 attendees for inclusion in his “Evidence and Artifacts: Faces of Autism” project, in which he’s seeking to photograph more than 5,000 individuals affected by autism, from the individuals themselves to parents, siblings, neighbors, teachers, doctors and researchers.
The show attracted a number of high profile guests including Karen McManus from Representative Chris Van Hollen's Office and a representative from Senator Barbara Mikulski's office. Catherine Leggett (pictured left), wife of Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, also attended and expressed her passion for the arts.
“Events like these are important to me because they remind us that each of these individuals is capable of expressing themselves in a language we all understand,” Leggett said. “This is an evening that captures the opportunities of those who are sometimes overlooked.”
Emily Meehan, an 18-year-old on the spectrum whose work was on display, said having her work in the show was fun because it allowed others to see the way she best expresses herself, echoing the sentiment expressed by Prince that “the arts are amazing for communicating in every way.”
The Madison House Autism Foundation serves to answer the tough question many parents of children with autism face: “What will happen to my adult child when I’m no longer around?” JaLynn Prince and her husband Dr. Gregory Prince worry about the answer to that question as they care for their own 22-year-old son who is on the spectrum and is about to become ineligible to receive the services provided by the county and the state that are heavily geared to children on the spectrum.
The cooperation of an entire community was an idea stressed by each attendee who spoke. Prince said that only a small fraction of what needs to be done for adult care has been implemented. She pointed out the responsibility of the community as a whole to advocate for services to people of all ages who struggle with autism every day.
The art exhibit will remain on display until June 1 with some pieces available for sale. A portion of any sale proceeds will be donated to the Madison House Autism Foundation.
Additional media coverage:
Artist Bess Lumsden, whose work is included in the show, participates in Chris Gauthier's "Evidence and Artifacts: Faces of Autism" project during the reception.
Dan Fairbanks creates his latest sculpture during the reception.