"Art+Autism" comes to UNT ArtSpace Dallas on March 31

Friday, March 11, 2016 - 14:27
Lola Ruth Campbell,
Lola Ruth Campbell, "Youth of the Nation," 2013, Oil on canvas

What: "Art+Autism," a one-of-a-kind exhibition showcasing the talents and abilities of artists living with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The exhibition is sponsored by the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, UNT Art Galleries and UNT's College of Visual Arts and Design.

When: The exhibition runs March 31 (Thursday) to July 23 (Saturday). Artist talks will be held beginning at 3 p.m. April 2 (Saturday), with an opening reception following from 4 to 6 p.m. Family Day will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. April 9 (Saturday).

Where: UNT ArtSpace Dallas, 1901 Main St., Dallas.

Hours: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

Cost: Free.

More information: Contact Susan Sanders at susan.sanders@unt.edu.

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Sharon Hartman noticed that something was missing in Dallas.

Hartman had been working as an art teacher for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities for an organization in Austin when she realized that there were no accessible art programs for students with special needs in Dallas. She decided to fill the gap herself by starting Accessible Art, a business offering art lessons and workshops for artists with special needs.

Now, just a few months since opening the program, Hartman is curating an art show of work from artists across the nation living with autism at UNT ArtSpace Dallas, located at 1901 Main St. in Dallas. The event is sponsored by UNT Art Galleries and the  UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center.

"Opening the conversation about how art can affect individuals with special needs is important to me," said Hartman, who holds a bachelor's of fine arts in studio art and a master's in special education from the University of Texas. "Just letting people know that these programs exist is rewarding. And, of course, giving exposure to these amazing artists is rewarding in itself."

The exhibition, titled "Art + Autism," runs from March 31 (Thursday) to July 23 (Saturday). On April 2 (Saturday), an artist talk will begin at 3 p.m., and an opening reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m.

The exhibition will include about 20 works on display from artists from all over the nation, with some work from international students as well. Hartman said the submissions for the exhibit "took off" as soon as she opened them up.

"Art+Autism" is meant to initiate a conversation about the unique power of art in the autism community, and with works ranging from yarn embroidery to drawings to paintings, it will showcase the talents and abilities of artist living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The exhibit will also have a Family Day from 1 to 3 p.m. April 9 (Saturday). Family Day will be part of the University of North Texas' Saturday Series, which aims to have children and their families engage with visual art through interactive and performance-based interpretation.

Hartman said part of her educational philosophy with her students is to teach them how they can actually make a career out of art, since the majority of them are adults. Getting their work into galleries is a crucial step, she said.

"I want to really have them think about how art could be a career for them," Hartman said. "We review day-to-day needs and make career goals. It teaches them a lot of life skills, and it gets them out of the house and with other students."

She currently has more than 100 students in the Dallas area, and her teaching style is to let them work with whatever they're drawn to. Her extensive art background has provided her with experience in everything from watercolors to sculpture, and she helps students with whatever medium they choose.

At the end of every session, the students critique each other's work and talk about art in general.

Hartman said she's glad she can provide this extremely needed service to the Dallas area, but she's more excited about the community that has formed around her program.

"I really love the community aspect of this project," Hartman said. "It's tough to get yourself out there as an artist, but my students have been enthusiastic about getting out of their comfort zones and into the community of artists around them."

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