Home Art sale Autism art exhibit in Edmonton offers chance for independence

Autism art exhibit in Edmonton offers chance for independence


Everyone is an artist.

At least that’s what the young people say behind the works on display at the Stollery Gallery at the Nina Haggerty Center for the Arts in Edmonton.

“It’s just about making something you love that doesn’t have to be perfect because in the end mistakes sometimes add to the artwork,” said Ella Guirguis , which was part of the Center for Autism Services Alberta (CFSAA) Annual Saturday Art Show and Sale.

The exhibit featured the work of children, teens and young adults who are part of CFASA’s art programs, which run from September to June each year. The programs allow people with autism ages 6-29 to learn from top instructors at the Nina Haggerty Center while developing their own creative visions.

The Center for Autism Services Alberta Annual Art Exhibit and Sale showcases artwork produced through art programs in partnership with the Nina Haggerty Center for the Arts. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Kaija Melenka, community and family services coordinator at CFASA, said that while instructors teach participants the techniques, students are encouraged to be independent in their creative work.

“It makes a huge difference when someone is able to be empowered and express themselves the way they want…especially those who might find it difficult to express themselves in a way that others easily understand or accept” , she said.

The process also helps build confidence and self-reliance, “which everyone deserves,” Melenka said.

This acrylic painting, titled Mountain Lake, is one of two works of art by Ella Guirguis. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

“A very good sense of detail”

Guirguis had two works of art on display this weekend. She said she included several textures in both pieces, including a large painting of a landscape.

“I used different mediums so each area was slightly different, so I love the touch, and it’s really nice to see that you can create art for multiple purposes,” she said.

Another participant, Mathieson Erickson, has been with the program since 2015.

He began his artistic journey seven years ago, and since then he has volunteered and done paid work at the Nina Haggerty Center.

Mathieson Erickson is one of the artists whose work is featured, but he has also volunteered to help other program participants. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Erickson said the experience exposed him to the works of others, which influenced his own creativity, inspiring him to try new techniques.

Like many people with autism, Erickson said he had “a very good eye for detail.” For this reason, he said he likes abstract art because it taps into his ability to spot things that others might miss.

Like Guirguis, Erickson said there is no wrong way to make art.

“Everyone is equally capable [as anyone else] to be a great artist.”