“For those without much knowledge of autism spectrum disorders, let me provide you with a brief description: people with ASD may have trouble with social communication. Some may not be able to talk. Some may be able to talk, but we will miss the social cues in what you are saying, miss cues about physical space, pacing of words, tone of voice, and other elements of non-verbal language. This will make it difficult for us to have friends, and can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation. Often, people on the autism spectrum have intense interests that they focus on to the exclusion of all else. The world can often be a very overwhelming place, and this helps us structure it. Sensory integration challenges, such as being super sensitive to sounds, touch, light, movement, smells, texture and so on are also part of autism spectrum disorders. But there is also a sense of loyalty, of joy, of honesty and dependability that are all great aspects of those on the autism spectrum. Someone with autism is someone who is dependable and a hard worker. Someone who genuinely cares about you with all their hearts, even if they sometimes have trouble showing it. To be known by someone on the autism spectrum is to be loved more fully and less conditionally than you perhaps have ever experienced.” – Museum volunteer Kate Goldfield
We love this video that showcases the ability of artist Stephen Wiltshire. Check out his incredibly accurate city drawings he does from memory!
More than 40 artists ages 5 to 17 from as far away as Caribou and Limestone submitted work for the 2013 Show and Tell Gallery, a collection of work by youth on the autism spectrum. Each April since 2009, the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine has collected art work by young people with autism spectrum disorder and hangs the show for Autism Awareness Month. The show will be on display in the Museum & Theatre’s Stairwell Gallery through August 2013.
This year’s gallery includes more than 60 pieces, ranging from fanciful pipe cleaner dragons to striking photographs to a remarkably faithful replica of Monet’s The Boat at Giverny. Many students submitted work with encouragement from art teachers and special education professionals who recognized both their students’ talent and the value of an opportunity to share their creativity.
“Some children on the spectrum struggle with communication and may not speak to peers or
teachers about their achievements,” says Louisa Donelson, the educator at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine who founded the gallery and responsible for its curation. “The Show and Tell Gallery gives them an opportunity to take pride in their work. Their teachers, families and even classmates come to see it. It helps the whole community recognize how much kids on the spectrum are capable of, and how many Maine families are affected by spectrum disorders.”
Support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine and Walmart funds both the Show and Tell Gallery and Play Our Way, a series of free,
private playtimes for children on the autism spectrum and their families. This funding also supports a series of small art workshops led by Donelson for youth on the autism spectrum. (Space is still available in spring workshops; interested families can email email@example.com for information.)
Last Wednesday (April 3rd), the Maine Autism Alliance awarded the Museum & Theatre one of its first Step Up for Autism awards, recognizing the Show and Tell Gallery, Donelson’s art workshops, and the Play Our Way Playtimes as vital resources for Maine’s autism community.
For me, one of the only things that comes close to making art is viewing art. That’s why I am so excited for the 4th annual Show and Tell Gallery! Through March 27th, we’re accepting art submissions from children and teens on the autism spectrum. We’re eager to see a wide variety of art in all media – including (but not at all limited to) painting, drawing, digital or computer art, photography, and sculpture. If you have artwork but don’t have a mat or frame for it, just let us know – we’re happy to help get your piece gallery-ready!
If you know a child or teen diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder who is 5-18 years old (or in grades K-12), and might like to see their art hanging at the Museum & Theatre, please share this opportunity with him/her! Having curated this gallery for several years, I can tell you that the experience of seeing a child’s artwork on display here at the Museum & Theatre is a special opportunity that has a big impact on the artists and their families. We’ll have a special friends and family reception to open the show, and the work will hang in our front stairwell gallery throughout the spring and summer. (Don’t worry about handing over your masterpiece – all pieces of art will be returned.)
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact me at Louisa@kitetails.org or 207-828-1234 x227.
The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s Show and Tell Gallery opens on April 13 with a special party for artists and their families. The exhibit, which features paintings, drawings and sculpture created by 27 local children and teens with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), opens in April in honor of Autism Awareness Month, and will remain on display through August 2012. The show was developed to highlight the talent and capabilities of these children and teens while educating the public about the prevalence of autism, especially in Maine.
“Conversations about autism often focus on what these children can’t do,” says Louisa Donelson, a Museum educator and the show’s curator. “The Show and Tell Gallery sheds light on all the things they can do – and do well!”
While this is the third year that Donelson has curated an exhibit like this for the Museum, the 2012 Gallery is part of a larger project funded by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine. The project, entitled Play Our Way, included a series of free, private playtimes for autistic children and their families, and a series of therapeutic after-school art workshops at the Museum for a small group of children with ASD.
Autism and other spectrum disorders are among the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the US. Last week, the Center for Disease Control reported that spectrum disorders now affect 1 in 88 children. Despite the prevalence of these disorders, at present there is no known cause or cure.
The Show and Tell Gallery will remain on display at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine through August of this year. Play Our Way private playtimes will be held on April 15 (10am-noon), May 18 (5:30-7:30pm) and June 3 (10am-noon).
For more information about Play Our Way or the Show and Tell Gallery, please contact Louisa Donelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.