Evan Green with instructor Ruchi Malhotra.
Evan Green with instructor Ruchi Malhotra.

Eleven-year-old Evan Green discovered a whole new world at Asia Institute Crane House (AICH) thanks to a new art program for patients at the University of Louisville Autism Center at Kosair Charities.

“It was great! I learned how there are a lot of patterns in the artwork,” said Green, a patient at the UofL Autism Center.

In its first six-week session last fall, the New Perspectives Art Program introduced Green and 13 other students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to the patterns, shapes and themes of Asian art. Students explored the exhibit “Peacocks and Paisleys” at AICH, learning about the artistic themes and textiles of China, India, Japan and Korea. They also learned how those cultures used scrolls for communication and art. The students then created their own art using natural materials, stencils and block printing.

“It lit him up. It was a day of excitement,” said Evan’s mother, Linda.

The program, funded by a grant from The Norton Foundation, Inc., was created to encourage social interaction, positive behaviors and individual self-confidence in children on the autism spectrum. It was developed by Mike Miller, field training coordinator in the UofL College of Education and Human Development working at the Kentucky Autism Training Center, and Delaire Rowe of VSA Kentucky, an organization dedicated to providing arts education for individuals with disabilities.

“At first I wondered if it would work. A lot of the kids didn’t know each other and they had to build relationships and to share materials,” Miller said. “However, after they got in the art process they stayed so engaged. Most of the time at the clinic, they need a break after about 15 minutes. In the classes, they would work the entire hour. We asked if they needed to go walk, but they stayed right there.”

Art instructor Pat Sturtzel and Asia Institute Crane House staff members Ruchi Malhotra and Matt Nichols conducted the hour-long classes with the students, age 6 through 21. Linda Green said Evan was enthusiastic about the Saturday classes since he loves to draw, and he quickly became engaged in the activities.

“He talked to other kids and he would make sure they had things they needed. If they came in late, he would sit down next to them and try to give them instructions that he had just been given,” Linda Green said. “As soon as we got home he wanted to do the activities again. He did not ever want the class to end.”

Following the weekly sessions, the students’ scrolls were placed on exhibit in the Crane House gallery and an opening reception held Dec. 10, at which the students showed off their work for visitors. The students’ artwork will remain on display at Asia Institute Crane House, 1244 S. Third St., through Mar. 18.

Miller and Rowe are planning additional programs for students in the spring.

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Betty Coffman
Betty Coffman is a Health Communications Specialist, working on the Health Sciences Campus with departments in the School of Medicine. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Marketing and Communications.