Children and adults with autism often experience impaired communication and social interactions, but there is at least one inexpensive activity that has been shown to help: art.
"It's a way to express themselves," says Kay Wright, who, with Donna Pizzuto, organized an exhibit called The Art of Autism, on display at The Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel.
"A lot of people who have autism have a hard time expressing themselves and a hard time making social connections, so this is one way they can communicate and express themselves," she says.
Wright, a real estate agent and retired teacher, is a volunteer for EAGLE (Embracing Asperger Gifts and Life Experiences), a social support group for adults with autism.
"Several of them are really art- oriented," Wright says of EAGLE members, "so this exhibit just kind of came out of all that."
Wright and Pizzuto reached out to groups including EAGLE, Latitude Artist Community, the Autism Society of the Bluegrass and Fayette County Public Schools to spread the word out about the exhibit.
"We weren't sure what kind of a response we were going to get," she says of the call to artists.
But submissions kept coming in right up until Sunday, when the exhibit opened.
The exhibit features more than 25 works. The 16 artists range in age from 6 to 47, and they work in media ranging from acrylic paints and watercolors to digital photography and wood carvings.
One of the artists is Jade Finley, 12, a Bryan Station Middle School seventh-grader who has three acrylic paintings in the exhibit, including To Haiti With Love.
The painting was Jade's way of dealing with the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation of Haiti.
"I wanted to make it to honor them," says Jade, whose two other paintings, Flutter Flies and Spring Break, feature brightly colored nature themes.
"I paint all the time," Jade says. "Art inspires me."
This year's success means the exhibit probably will become an annual event.
"We had several artists who submitted pieces say they would like to submit more for next year," Pizzuto says.
For Wright and Pizzuto, both members at St. Michael's, there is also a spiritual aspect to artwork.
Wright facilitates and Pizzuto is a member of an Artist's Way group at St. Michael's, based on the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, which focuses on connecting more fully with God through creativity.
"It is our belief that we are all born with creative talent," Wright and Pizzuto wrote in the exhibit's brochure, "and to use that talent, embrace it and celebrate it is to honor God."
IF YOU GO
'Discover the Art of Autism'
When: Through April 28. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
Where: The Episcopal Church of St. Michael the Archangel, 2025 Bellefonte Dr.
Learn more: (859) 277-7511, www.saint-michaels.org
IF YOU GO
When: 5-8 p.m. April 19
Where: Downtown and Chevy Chase galleries
Learn more: Galleryhoplex.com
Discover the Art of Autism is not part of Gallery Hop, but these exhibits are. Each will have a reception during the hop.
Chiaroscuro: The Art of Light and Shadow by Jaime Corum. New Editions Gallery, 807 Euclid Ave. Exhibit through May 25. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat. (859) 266-2766. Neweditionsgallery.com.
Fay Moore: Pastels From the Studio. Heike Pickett Gallery, 400 E. Vine St. Exhibit through May 31. Gallery hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. (859) 233-1263. Heikepickettgallery.com.
500 Faces: Portraits by Madelaine Enochs-Epley. Portraits of 500 people done in one hour each. Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St. Exhibit through June 4. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 2-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Marian Pacsuta: Figures in Oil. Artists Attic, 401 W. Main St., fourth floor. Through May 31. Gallery opens at 10 a.m. Mon.-Sat.
Realms of Wonder: Collages by Kathleen O'Brien. M.S. Rezny Studio/Gallery, 903 Manchester St. Exhibit through April 30. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Fri., noon-3 p.m. Sat. Msrezny.com.
Sayre School alumni exhibit. Works by 10 graduates. Sayre School "Old Sayre" building, off Limestone and Second St. Sayreschool.org.
The Bluegrass & Beyond: Travel Photography by Tom Eblen, Herald-Leader columnist. Hunt-Morgan House, 201 N. Mill St. Bluegrasstrust.org.
Candace Chaney is a Lexington-based writer.