Arts for Autism benefits go well beyond dollars and cents

PS: Gallery and Thompson Center team up to raise money and awareness.

By Bradley Babendir | Oct. 28, 2011

Tags: Arts for Autism PS: Gallery

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Arts for Autism isn’t like other art shows. There are no snooty artists with European accents and black turtlenecks trying to sell a white canvas with a black dot that’s just off center, and no one person is going to be walking out with a nice big check — all of the profits go to the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

That is not where its uniqueness stops.

“The greatest thing about the show is that it gives us the opportunity to show the ability of individuals who have an autism diagnosis,” says Cheryl Unterschutz, senior information specialist at the Thompson Center.

The show puts on display the work of people ages 3 to 51, all of whom have autism. The show received pieces from all around Missouri, but many of them came from a new addition to this year’s showcase. The Thompson Center held an Art Day for members of the community to come in and create art, some of which will be featured in the show.

“We held it with the idea that it’d be a great outreach opportunity and allow kids who come to the center to see it as a fun place,” Untershutz says.

Occupational therapist Jacquelyn Sample knows firsthand the power art can have for a person with autism, and got involved with the project three years ago at its inception.

“I used to work at the Thompson Center so (Unterzhutz) and I noticed the (Arts for Autism) flier," Sample says. "I use a lot of art in my therapies to work on fine motor skills."

Creating art for the show provides more benefits than just fine-tuning motor skills. Everyone who submits a piece will have one in the show.

“A lot of the children don’t bring home the artwork from school like other kids do and so for them to be able to complete something is a great feeling,” Sample says.

While the experience for the participants may be pay off enough, the event is also an effective fundraiser for the Thompson Center. Jennifer Perlow, owner and executive curator of the PS: Gallery, helps plan and host this event and other ones like it year round.

“We felt like the Art for Autism program was both helping people on the autism spectrum and bringing art to the public, both of which have value,” Perlow says.

Along with finding ways to increase artists' involvement, the gallery and the center are also coming up with new ways to raise funds.

“They made small magnets of a lot of the pieces," Perlow says. "It’s a fundraiser so they’re asking for 35 to 75 (dollars) per piece, but the magnets are $5."

The benefits don’t end with the artists or the money. Those who help in planning and coordinating the event also enjoy a sense of pride.

“I would call it rewarding," Sample says. "I think it’s a great match for occupational therapy services… and it’s rewarding for me to be able to tie what we do in a clinic to a real life experience."

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