Autistic Artists Sell Work at YMCA Gallery

Gallery opens in conjunction with Autism Awareness Month.

For people with autism and their families, the world can sometimes appear filled with isolation and indifferenc while lacking opportunities. This April, a group of charitable and nonprofit organizations will work to show that people diagnosed with autism can accomplish great things in the challenging field of professional art.

The Ridgwood YMCA, the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, and Arts Unbound are inviting residents to gain a better understanding of the world and challenges faced by people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

National Autism Awareness Month kicks off April 1. In Ridgewood, the month will begin with a gallery opening that displays art created by autistic people. The Ridgewood YMCA will host the opening, and guests will have the opportunity to purchase artwork.

"The YMCA provided a room for the arts classes," the YMCA's Kathi Melding said. "I was happy to find not just a space for them, but storage also. The ability to produce this is what the Y is all about. We have a real commitment to the art."

The artists that will present Thursday are all a part of the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation Arts Unbound Program.

The gallery's art will be the culmination of a series of 20 classes provided to 15 students with autism by Arts Unbound of Orange, and funded by the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation.

"What they did was get art training from Arts Unbound," said Linda Fiddle of the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. "The proceeds from the gallery's art sales will go to the artists. That makes them working artists. Then, they have a vocation and a job."

Fiddle's son, Daniel, had autism. Following his death, she started the nationwide nonprofit in his honor and targets its work to help young adults transition into the adult world. 

Gail Levinson of Arts Unbound promised that guests at the gallery could look forward to a rewarding artistic experience, on top of supporting a worthwhile nonprofit initiative.

"The artwork included in the exhibition is diverse and expressive and features a wide variety of style and composition that students have learned while taking classes at Arts Unbound," Levinson said.

Guests at the YMCA's gallery will support a sector of the autistic community that is often overlooked—adults with autism.

"We're the only national autism focused organization focused on adults. We are focusing on adults because of the prevalence of autism in older ages in our state in community," Fiddle said.

For Fiddle, a major part of the program is that it will help people that would otherwise have difficulty developing a trade.

"I think that what we want to do in the world in general is focus on strengths and talents," Fiddle said. "They've got the opportunity to enhance their artistic abilities. Through their exploration, they get to refine their skill."

During April, several events will occur throughout the area. Cosponsoring the event with the Ridgewood Community Access Network, the foundation presents the film The Asperger's Difference April 17 at the Community Center in Village Hall. Additionally, Whole Foods and Gardiner & Co. will offer special autism benefits, on top of events in Oradell and Glen Rock.

The April 1 event begins at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the foundation's Web site.


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