Norrel Henderson holds up bold and colorful self-portrait bursting with Andy Warhol vibes. Think of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe canvases, only edgier. The ink-and-watercolor piece by Henderson, a ninth-grade student at Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron, will be part of the Milestones Art Show, held virtually June 15 to August 15. Henderson’s artwork, along with pieces by three of his classmates, was accepted to the international exhibit that showcases the works of teen and adult artists with autism.
“I was very shocked, surprised and happy to hear about it. I know how competitive the show is,” says Summit Academy Secondary School – Akron art teacher Keytsa Bishop, who submitted pieces from four of her students to the competition. The show will be a highlighted event of Milestones’ annual conference. Milestones is a nonprofit organization focused on improving the lives of autistic individuals, families, caregivers and professionals by educating, coaching and connecting them to various resources.
According to Carly Millis Jalowiec, education assistant for Milestones, the show will feature the accepted works of 65 artists who range in age from 15 to 86. The featured artists come from as far away as Australia, Canada, India and Great Britain.
Young artist Henderson says he has been interested in art for as long as he can remember. A fan of late artist Bob Ross, Henderson says he appreciates artists, such as Ross, who can add feeling to landscapes. Henderson also describes types of art that he says, “blow my mind,” drawing on the example of a dragon wall mural.
Senior Dylon Freeland’s self-portrait also was accepted to the show. The pencil illustration is one of several versions Freeland drew in the process of creating his winner. Freeland says he has been immersed in art since he was a preteen and has an appreciation for a range of styles, from cartooning to works by his favorite artist, M.C. Escher.
“I like surrealism,” he adds. “It looks real but looks interesting.”
Bishop predicts that Freeland will be a lifelong learner and lover of art, explaining that he regularly reads art books from the school library and has a passion for studying various artists.
The school’s third winning Milestones Art Show entry features a playful panda, golden seahorse and majestic elephant among the illustrated menagerie created by 11th grader Gaven Terry.
Terry says he enjoys drawing realistic images. In the process of creating his marker-drawn and watercolor-painted piece, Terry says he referenced animal drawings in a book. Bishop points out that Terry has a strong talent for memorizing and rendering images down to the finest details.
In his “My Hands in the Past, My Hands in the Future” piece, 11th grade student Ethan Freigant shares slices of his life story. Created in watercolor, colored pencil and ink, the art show-accepted illustration inventively incorporates an image of the flag of England, symbolizing Freigant’s birth country, and the Chevy Camaro he aspires to drive in the future. Other elements, such as a picture of a truck that represents the summer month Friegant spent driving cross-country with his father and the two-story house he hopes to own one day, just skim the surface of the details that comprise Freigant’s lively piece.
Friegant’s multimedia illustration stems from a class assignment requiring students to include 10 images depicting their pasts and 10 revealing their futures, in one piece.
“I wanted the students to focus on art that had meaning and a personal connection,” explains Bishop, describing how the assignment allowed both teacher and students to learn a lot about each other and their future goals.
The decision by Summit Academy to answer the art show’s call for entries was instinctive, given the depth and breadth of the school’s art program, Bishop says.
“Art is a positive thing at Summit. It gives our students a way of expressing themselves,” she says.
Principal Ralph Grant elaborates on Bishop’s humble statement: “Since I have been here, the art program has been exemplary and all the credit goes to Ms. Bishop, to her dedication, hard work and patience,” he says. “We have a tremendous art intelligence within our student body community and the best art teacher in Summit County.”