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SUNY Empire State College hosts celebration of autistic and neurodiverse artists

Date April 28, 2021

 SUNY Empire State College, in partnership with Anderson Center for Autism, hosted a month-long celebration of autistic and neurodiverse artists in Expressive Outcomes, a virtual art gallery.

The gallery exhibit, part of the college’s Autism Acceptance and Inclusivity Month, gave artists of all abilities the opportunity to showcase their artistic talent in an inclusive setting.

On April 13, the gallery held its opening event, moderated by Dr. Noor Syed, director of the SUNY Empire Center for Autism Inclusivity, with featured guests Eliza Bozenski, chief development officer at Anderson Center for Autism, Susan Angeles, a founder of the Expressive Outcomes program at Anderson and Dr. Pamala Rogers, director of expressive art programs for The Shield Institute and its Pure Vision Arts program in New York City.

The event featured the stories and artwork, including paintings, mixed-media art and sculpture, of artists in the Pure Vision Arts program. Many of the featured artists have sold their work to private collectors and museums worldwide.

The event also featured works by William Britt, a world-renowned autistic artist who, from the age of five, spent 34 years of his life at the infamous and now-shuttered Willowbrook State School. In 1986, Britt was honored at the Kennedy Center for outstanding artistic achievement and was commemorated in a poem by Maya Angelou. Now in his late 80s, Britt lives independently and supports himself through sales of his art.

He is still affiliated with, and represented by, Pure Vision Arts.

SUNY Empire State College officer in charge Nathan Gonyea said in a press release, “We are honored to host the Expressive Outcomes virtual art exhibit and to help showcase the talents of these brilliant artists. Our mission as a college has always been to expand opportunities to those who historically have faced barriers to receiving the education and services they deserve, and that includes students who are neurodivergent.

This art exhibit is a small but important way to celebrate and share the contributions of individuals with autism in our communities.”

Syed added, “The exhibit was such a beautiful way to represent the passion and individuality each person brings, and to celebrate our autistic community. Embracing individual strengths is critical in shaping an inclusive world.”

Pure Vision arts director Pamala Rogers said in the release, “It was lovely to celebrate Autism Awareness Month with SUNY Empire State College and the Anderson Center for Autism. I always welcome the opportunity to speak about art, the culture of autism, and neurodiversity at wonderful events like these.”

Anderson Center for Autism Chief Development Officer Eliza Bozenski believes events such as the virtual gallery are a prime example of what autism awareness, acceptance and inclusivity are all about. “Any opportunity to feature the passion and artistic talents of so many individuals on the autism spectrum, and the programs that support their work, are wonderful,” she said in the release.

“On behalf of Anderson Center for Autism and the founders, team members and artists involved in our Expressive Outcomes program, we thank SUNY Empire State College, the Center for Autism Inclusivity and Dr. Rogers from Pure Vision Arts for this opportunity to collaborate and showcase the many talents of members of the autism community.”

The virtual gallery, which is free and open to the public throughout April, is available online at www.esc.edu/expressive-outcomes