The Art of Autism looks back at 2017

The Day I Met Polly

As 2017 comes to a close, The Art of Autism looks back at memorable events of the year. We’ve compiled some highlights of happenings in the autism community and from our year at The Art of Autism.

Notable Deaths

2017 was a year that saw the passing of three lights who embodied inclusion, love, art, and all the values that we hold dearly at the Art of Autism. Donna Williams

Autism icon Donna Williams passed after a long, public struggle with cancer. Jeanette Purkis wrote a poignant tribute to Donna “The Day I Met Polly” that we republished on the Art of Autism.

Steve Selpal in 2011

Artist and friend Steve Selpal also passed in 2017. Steve was a generous spirit whose life was also cut short by cancer. The Art of Autism profiled Steve shortly after his death. In the last year of his life Steve videotaped his beliefs about Spirituality and Special Needs which we included on our website.

A local advocate, poet and friend to the Art of Autism, Jackson Wheeler also passed in 2017. The Art of Autism wrote a tribute to Jackson.

Temple Grandin named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame

On a happier note, in 2017 Temple Grandin was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In ‘the year of women,’ Temple is one of the most recognized people in the world. The Art of Autism congratulates Temple on her many accomplishments. The Art of Autism is grateful for Temple’s support and contribution to our project.

Autism nonprofits recognized

The Art of Autism was happy to see nonprofits who have an autism empowerment and inclusion focus receive the recognition they deserved. Celebrate Edu received a $100,000 grant from Chick Fil A Foundation for being a “true inspiration.” Julian Maha of KultureCity received the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The Art of Autism hopes to partner with more like-minded entities like these two in the future.


In 2017, in movies and television we saw more autistic characters. Julia has become a regular character on Sesame Street. We had bloggers write about movies with autistic characters. Brent Anderson wrote about Billy Ranger in the Power Ranger movie and Tom Iland wrote about the Accountant.

Other shows that portrayed autistic people were “ATypical,” “The Good Doctor,” and “The A-Word”. These shows are not without controversy. Many would like to see autistic actors themselves portray autistic characters.

Art of Autism Board member Keri Bowers attended a workshop on including people with developmental disabilities in Hollywood.

In addition, to television and movies, the one-woman play about autism “A” Train took honors at the United Solo Awards in New York.

Literary Works

The book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism by John Donvan and Caren Zucker was named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Art of Autism was excited that Steve Silberman’s book Neurotribes is being developed into a movie.

Budget Worries

In the United States, worries about cuts to healthcare and entitlements dominated many disability nonprofits’ agendas in 2017. Art of Autism Board member Carly Fulgham wrote about the critical need in our community for unity. The Art of Autism predicts that threats to entitlements will continue in 2018. Cuts would dramatically effect the ability for many in the autism community to be included in a meaningful way. For others, it could effect their very existence.

Reconsideration of Words Used by the CDC

We at the Art of Autism are mortified to see 7 words considered for removal from the CDC – words we use all the time, such as ‘diversity,’ ‘entitlement,’ ‘transgender,’ and ‘vulnerable.” We don’t know what this exactly means for our population but it isn’t good.

More Emphasis Placed on the Advantages of Neurodiversity in Science and the Work Place

The Art of Autism is heartened by funding that is going to employment initiatives and meaningful inclusion for those with autism. A recent $1 million grant by an astronomy professor focuses on such things as “developing new measures of uniquely autistic capabilities for scientific discovery.” For many researchers, 2017 continued a trend to include autistic people in their research. The Art of Autism would like to see this as standard practice. A popular blog on the Art of Autism is what physicians can learn from autistic people.

Still over 90 percent of autistic people are either unemployed or underemployed. The Art of Autism in 2018 will continue to focus on creative employment initiatives for people on the autism spectrum.

Natural Disasters

Dominating the news in 2017 was natural disasters. This effected many people with developmental disabilities. Keri Bowers wrote a blog about the fires in California and her worries for her adult autistic son. Julian Maha of Kulture City raised monies for those families with special needs effected by the hurricane.

Here are some of The Art of Autism 2017 highlights:

Art of Autism board additions included more autistic people

The Art of Autism continued to grow our board to include more autistic people. In 2017, we added 3 people to our board – Carly Fulgham, Ron Sandison, and Kimberly Gerry Tucker. We now have more autistic people than neurotypicals which we feel is appropriate for our nonprofit.

Museum Exhibits

Syance at the California Museum

The Art of Autism helped curate two museum exhibits in 2017. One at the HHDCB3 Cultural and Art Museum in Covina and the other at the California Museum in Sacramento. The “Arts & Advocacy” Exhibit at the California Museum ran for 3 months and highlighted the power of advocacy for people with developmental disabilities through the medium of art.

2017 Art of Autism Poems & Art for Peace Initiative

Kimberly Gerry Tucker "Peace:
Kimberly Gerry Tucker

Art of Autism Board member Keri Bowers for the 2nd year curated The Art of Autism Poems & Art for Peace Initiative.

Curation of backdrop for “A” Train

A Train image

Keri also curated an art display that was the backdrop of the award-winning play “A” Train in New York City.

Best Blogs, Vlogs, and Online Magazines

The Art of Autism realizes the importance of the internet for accurate information about autism. We polled readers for their favorite bloggers, vloggers, and online magazines in 2017 and compiled a list of what we feel are stellar blogs and resources.

Art AUCross America

The Art of Autism partnered with Toys AuCross America for art set giveaways to autistic children – Art AuCross America. We hope to host more giveaways like this in the future.

A million views

The Art of Autism reached 1,000,000 views on our website in 2017. We’ve seen a dramatic increase over the year in our readership. We’ve continued our tradition of high-quality blogs and a newsletter of opportunities for our readers.

Translation into Spanish

The Art of Autism translated a couple of our blogs into Spanish (thank you Jennifer del Valle!). The blog Que es el Autismo is now one of our most read blogs on our website.

New Logo

In 2017, the Art of Autism won a contest to be a recipient of a new logo. We thank Barbarella Designs and 99Designs for our new logo.


In 2017, The Art of Autism continued to partner with like-minded entities. We have an exciting project with the University of Exeter which will result in several autistic people being paid to animate their art in 2018. We also had a booth at the Love and Autism Conference in San Diego and at an Autism Society of San Diego event last Fall. Art of Autism Board members Carly Fulgham and Keri Bowers presented to Cal Lutheran’s Art Symposium and Debra Muzikar and Keri Bowers presented The Art of Autism project to Bank of America employees.

Facebook Birthdays

In 2017, Facebook initiated birthday fundraisers. We are grateful to those who have created birthday fundraisers for the Art of Autism. We hope fundraising endeavors will enable us to pay some autistic people in 2018 for their contributions to the Art of Autism. The Art of Autism is an all-volunteer nonprofit.

Looking forward to 2018

In many ways 2017 has been an extremely stressful … yet productive year. We at the Art of Autism continue our mission of empowering autistic people and their families through the Arts. We continue to believe that meaningful partnerships with like-minded entities create a powerful synergy. We are excited about a new project that we will be announcing in 2018 (that board member Kimberly Gerry-Tucker is taking the lead on).

We are sincerely grateful to all our contributors, readers, and partners. We wish all a prosperous and peaceful 2018!

Debra Muzikar, President of the Board
The Art of Autism

3 replies on “The Art of Autism looks back at 2017”
  1. Oh, ART OF AUTISM, you are just the BEST.

    This site lifts my heart and soul and helps me believe in humanity (almost all of it) every time I check in!!!!

    So much love and gratitude,
    Full Spectrum Mama

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