Young adults with autism create and share through art

Four young P.E.I. artists made their art-world debut as part of the Stars in Your Eyes art show last week, put on by a charitable organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people with autism.

Students participate in weekly art classes

Members of the Stars for Life Foundation work on their paintings. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Four young P.E.I. artists made their art-world debut as part of the Stars in Your Eyes art show last week, put on by a charitable organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for young people with autism.

The P.E.I.-based Stars for Life Foundation started offering weekly art classes this fall.          

The group attracts between four and 15 people, depending on the week, from ages 18 to 35.       

"It's for any ability," said Eboni Court, an educational assistant and life-skills teacher with Stars for Life.

I like the intensity of the feeling of being free to draw whatever inspires me.- Jeremy TeRaa, art class participant

"People are painting. People are colouring colouring pages. Some people do mixed media."          

Jeremy TeRaa is part of the group.

Eboni Court and Jeremy TeRaa of the Stars for Life Foundation. (CBC/Nancy Russell)

"I like the intensity of the feeling of being free to draw whatever inspires me," said TeRaa. "I really like to paint. It's a lot of fun." 

Savannah Wright says she enjoys working alongside other artists with autism.        

"I like the moments where you can just paint and it's relaxing, and showing my work to other people is also fun," said Wright.

She's the daughter of Wayne Wright, the well-known cartoonist from Summerside, so she has grown up surrounded by art. She also studied art at Holland College.        

"For Savannah, because she's artistically inclined anyway, it was a way that she could be with other people and do something social with them with something she enjoys," says Kelley Wright, Savannah's mother.

"So it was good on a lot of fronts."

Art on display

The idea of an exhibit came out of the art group's popularity. 

The pieces created by four of the artists at Stars for Life were on display last week at the P.E.I. Crafts Council office on Queen Street. 

Wright has three paintings and a charcoal sketch in the exhibit.              

"I love them. It would be sad if I sold them," said Wright, adding with a smile, "I do like selling them at the same time."

Kelley Wright with her daughter, Savannah, whose paintings were displayed at the Stars in Your Eyes art show. (CBC/Nancy Russell)

Wright hopes the exhibit sends a message to gallery visitors about people with autism.            

"It shows them that we're not all the same and we have unique styles and unique views on things and everyone's unique," said Wright, who would like to pursue art as a career, especially painting.              

"I think a lot of times people don't really know what someone with autism can do," said Court.

"A lot of times we have to say they can do anything anyone else can do. Sometimes the general public doesn't get to see that because they're a little more reserved, a little more shy. But getting it out there says, 'Look what they can do.' That's what we want — everyone to be inspired."

Everyone involved says they hope there will be more art classes — and more art exhibits — in the future.              

"I think we're going to continue on this road and hopefully we'll just keep getting bigger and better," said Court.