Art exhibit celebrates Taiwanese artists on the autism spectrum

Photo by of Tejal Dhan | Mercury Staff

UTD welcomed artists and art teachers all the way from Taiwan to display their works of art on April 1 to share insight on living life as an autistic individual. The works of art, which are displayed in the JSOM atrium, were all created by autistic individuals under the Taiwan Xingqier Creative Arts Association.

In addition to meaningful words shared by the head of the association Shiny Wu, notable individuals including Paul Voelker, the mayor of Richardson, Dennis Kratz, dean of the Center for Asian Studies, and Hasan Pirkul, dean of the School of Management, all stepped onto the stage to share their own insight into the exhibit and the positivity of the Taiwanese community. A student from Taiwan’s Donghua University also shared his own experiences with the audience.

Wu began the program over 10 years ago but started expanding it in 2020. Through her many years of working with autistic artists of all ages, Wu has witnessed them grow into talented and proud individuals.

“Those artists, they need people [to] encourage you,” Wu said. “They [don’t] reject people, but they don’t watch people. They are in their own world. So, we try to let them walk into the community. This is once in their life. They come from very far. They [don’t] always have the chance for [an] art show. But this is really encouraging … Somebody is waiting for their art. I want to do that.”

While on the stage in JSOM’s Davidson Auditorium, Wu shared aspects of her program as well as Taiwanese culture surrounding the autistic community. She spoke about the use of body and face massages to allow all individuals, not just those with autism, to wake up and be more aware of the world around them.

“We have an eye, we have an ear, we easily see,” Wu said. “But we never really open our eye, never really listen when we create our art … You can do more. When you travel, open your five senses. And then after the travel, you can create art. That’s the whole program I want to share. When people [get] older, don’t stay at home [and] do nothing. Walk into the community, go volunteer and then do your art. We need more artist[s].”

Another guest at the exhibition was Grace Chen, an art teacher for the association who traveled from Taiwan to come share her students’ art. Cindy Hsieh, a translator for Chen, communicated the teacher’s feelings about the program and art show.

“She loves doing her work,” Hsieh said on behalf of Chen. “She loves helping autistic [students] making their artwork, and it just makes her so happy and satisfied … The most important thing is to help the kids relax their body and get their mindset ready so they can do their best.”

Hsieh said Chen became a teacher with the program because her own son was diagnosed with severe autism and was told that he could not survive in the world. Later, Chen met a five-year-old student with autism and began to work with him, which further inspired her to become an art teacher for disabled students. At the exhibit, works from students under Chen’s tutelage display bright colors and detailed lines, with both abstract and explicit subjects.

“She wants students [and] the world to know that it’s not very easy to take [care of] all the kids, especially with special needs kids, but they’re willing to experience… by touching, seeing, and also from inspiration from nature, so they can work with their art under a very happy and calm environment,”

Hsieh said on behalf of Chen. “She wants to let everyone know that in their world, you need a key to open their eyes. But it’s not that easy. You just need to do it step by step.”

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