Ten years ago, Debra Muzikar and Keri Bowers had an amazing idea: to bring about a movement to showcase the artistic and creative talents of kids and adults on the autism spectrum. However, it would take over a decade to see their collective dream come alive – as these two moms focused their energies on emerging talents of their own sons and others in their communities.
THEIR INSPIRATION: Debra’s son, Kevin Hosseini, who started painting in 2003 when he was nine years old, was displaying his vibrant oils and acrylics in local venues before his tenth birthday. Painting on a weekly basis with a passionate focus, Kevin’s works have been included on book covers, posters, cards, and in national and international art shows and exhibits. In 2004, when Keri’s son, Taylor Cross, was only 14, he declared that he wanted to become a filmmaker. With mom’s help and two years of diligent, if not hard-won focus on Taylor’s part, the pair completed the hit documentary film, Normal People Scare Me, produced by Joey Travolta, which was released to rave reviews in 2006. This film prompted Taylor to become an active voice as a self-advocate on the world scene.
Their kids and their respective talents, enabled these two moms to envision a new world of opportunity – not just for Kevin and Taylor, but for others who would join them.
After creating numerous small art shows, installations, and public performance opportunities for Kevin and Taylor and kids in their Southern California communities, the pair officially partnered to create the first collaborative ART of AUTISM event in Vancouver, BC in April of 2011. The event, comprised of a fine art show and live theatrical performance event, coincided with the release of Debra’s first compilation book “Artism: The Art of Autism: Shattering Myths of Those Living on the Spectrum,” featuring 54 artists from all over the world, along with a screening of Keri’s film, “ARTS: Possibilities, Disabilities, and the Arts.”
That first art show, which was a tremendous success, included works of art by local artists and artists featured in the book, and 20 performers showcasing live dance, music, poetry, comedy, and a choreographed karate ensemble. Successful ART of AUTISM shows followed in Hollywood, California. Orlando, Florida, Carpinteria, California, SoHo New York, and The Berkshires, Massachusetts.
To date, The ART of AUTISM events have featured 500 + artists, 40 + poets and authors, and 100 + entertainers, and still counting. We have over 500 artists who are on our email list from over 30 different countries. In 2014 the Art of Autism website had over 75,000 unique viewers from 151 different countries.