By Damon McLeese, Executive Director of VSA Arts of Colorado
Clyfford Still Museum and VSA Colorado have partnered on a project called Art, Architecture, and Autism. In this post, VSA Director Damon McLeese shares his inspiration for the project. Join us for the opening reception at the Access Gallery on Friday, April 4, 2014, 6–8 pm and a meet-the-artists reception on April 18, 6–8 pm. Access Gallery, 909 Santa Fe Drive, Denver (80204).
It is estimated that one out of every one hundred children in this country has a form of Autism. I have been working with young people with disabilities for nearly 30 years and am no closer to understanding autism than I am to understanding astrophysics. During this time, I have had the opportunity to watch and learn from many of these young people, which in turn led me to this particular project at Access Gallery.
One day we were downtown with a group of teens taking pictures of Lawrence Argent’s sculpture I See What You Mean (Denver’s Big Blue Bear) for an ongoing project. One of the teens, AJ, had not shown much interest in the photography project in general, but every once in a while I noticed he would stop and take what I thought was a rather random photo. When we got back and started processing some of the photos, I realized there was a certain balance or arrangement to AJ’s photos. Many of them were stunning. I did not think too much of it until last year when we were working with another group and again a teen with Autism was taking amazing photographs in one of our programs. The photos had nothing to do with what we were studying, at least not in any way I could determine, yet there was something unique there. The use of space and the perspectives were radically different from everyone else’s focus. At this point, I thought it would be interesting to see if we could artistically explore this intersection of art, autism and architecture.
This particular project was born out of these two encounters and a conversation with lead artist Judy Gardner some years earlier. It turns out Judy has Autism and had wanted to explore art with a group of teens who also had autism. We partnered with the Colorado Photographic Art Center and were off to the races…or in this case, the museum.
The Clyfford Still Museum is a gem of a building in Denver and has been wonderful in providing us access and support for this project. Our focus, as we explored the museum, was on the concepts of verticality, light and line. We hope you enjoy the results as much as we enjoyed the creation of this work. Visit us at the VSA Access Gallery to view the work on Friday, April 4, during First Friday, or on Friday, April 18, to meet the artists.
Learn more about VSA Colorado: http://accessgallery.org/