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【My China Dream】Autism meets art

[ 2014-04-14 16:30] 来源:中国日报网     字号 [] [] []  
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HeArts students and their family members gather at a painting show in Shanghai.



In 2010, Guo Chenggang suddenly found his 30-month-old son to be "unusual".

"He was unable to speak, very sensitive to sound and light. When playing in the kindergarten he would frequently turn to me-all symptoms of autism," Guo recalls. "I was full of guilt. My wife and I focused too much on work and had ignored our child."

He decided to return to his family, committing to taking care of his son full time.

His son's case proved to be a false alarm. As the boy grew older, the symptoms disappeared.

"I guess it was just a period of his growth, but I had gone through all the anxiety, fear and torture that parents of autistic children experience," he says.

Afterward, he says, he just could not get back on track and leave those experiences behind after learning so much about autistic children, their parents and families.

Today, Guo heads "heArtS", a Shanghai-based charity group that teaches art to mentally impaired people through free painting classes. The 36-year-old man from Wuxi, Jiangsu province, is not an artist himself and says he does not expect to discover the next Vincent Van Gogh.

However, he hopes to endow the students with the ability to express themselves-and also give them self-confidence and social recognition.

An MBA graduate of Shanghai Jiaotong University with a marketing degree, he had foreseen an ambitious future in business and management. But his encounter with people challenged by autism changed his life. He is now running his NGO full time.

He worked for more than two years as a volunteer helping the special-needs group-people with autism, Down syndrome and other mental disorders and illnesses. Last August, Guo and eight friends working in the field established the NGO to provide art classes to special-needs people.

By February, the organization was offering free weekly painting lessons to 245 people in 14 communities in Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou, with more than 600 paintings being produced each month.

Guo believes that people can express their inner selves through art, and says painting is the easiest art form that special-needs people can master.

"The art class does not focus on painting skills, and there is not any limitation on the colors or content. Instead, the students are encouraged to bravely express themselves," he says.

A crucial part of the art class is sharing. Students are invited to show their work, explain the paintings and answer other students' questions.

The courage to express themselves and willingness to communicate with others can overcome the sense of inferiority and isolation that's common in the group, Guo says.

Special art shows are regularly held to show the best work of the students.

Ye Xiufen, a mother of a mentally ill student, almost shed tears when attending an art show this March in Shanghai. A painting by her 31-year-old daughter was chosen for a public exhibition with other 35 works created by special-needs people in Xujiahui community in the city's Xuhui district.

Ye's daughter has studied painting for six months from volunteers of Guo's group, who give lessons from 9 am to 11 am every Thursday morning.

"I am really surprised by her progress. She never painted before and had never showed interest in it," Ye says.

"The painting class has improved my daughter's ability to think and observe. For example, before, she would wear whatever clothes we chose for her. Now, she has her own ideas on colors. She chooses clothes by herself and matches different shoes."

Ye credited her daughter's progress to the efforts of the "loving, caring and responsible volunteer teachers".

Wu Jiong, a volunteer teacher of Xujiahui community and a cofounder of Guo's NGO, says that she was touched and inspired by the students.

"They are very simple, and their world is small. Once they let you enter their world, you become a very important part of their life. They trust you and depend on you so much," she says.

The most frequent question the students ask is "whether you would come to give class next week", Wu says.

The feeling is echoed by other volunteers. That makes them determined to eliminate the public's prejudice about the group.

"Many people wrongly assume that special-needs groups are unpredictable, dangerous and harmful, fearing that they might attack others. In fact, they are no more offensive than ordinary people," Guo Chenggang says.

The NGO is developing a project that aims to help connect people with special needs to their communities.

They plan to invite local stores to display and sell the products made from the students' artworks, such as T-shirts, cards, cups and bags.

"The residents can realize that the special-needs people exist among us and their work can be a part of our life, and thus eliminate their fears about the group. On the other hand, the painters can receive some financial return," he says.

The intellectual-property rights of each painter are strictly ensured, he adds.































(译者 typhoonda 编辑 Julie)


【我的中国梦】当孤独症遇上艺术 【我的中国梦】当孤独症遇上艺术


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