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Design students are helping artists with autism earn from their paintings 

July 6, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

How do you make art more sustainable?

That was the question asked by Unilab Foundation, which in partnership with Vico’s Autism, has been supporting artists with autism. While the artists have been successful in selling some of their art works, there must be a more reliable way for them to earn income. Sure, they can sell their paintings, but one could only earn from a painting sale once. There must be a better way.

The answer to the question may lie in design, according to Director Gerry Torres of the De La Salle‑College of Saint Benilde (DLS‑CSB) Center for Campus Art.

“I thought that if we could develop designs from their art then they don't necessarily have to sell their art,” Mr. Torres told SparkUp at the opening of the Design, Art, Autism exhibit at the School of Design and Arts Campus of DLS‑CSB, which he also curated.

“Designs would be a very potent way for them to have income, because designs can be turned into commodity, into merchandise. That can be constantly developed, then the merchandise can provide them with a steady income,” Mr. Torres said.

The works of eight artists with autism—Jorel Alegre, Vico Cham, Julyan Harrison, Chico Joaquin, Samantha Kaspar, Karl Oliveros, Muneer Pena and Daniel Sanchez—are shown with designs created by students of DLS‑CSB’s architecture, industrial design and fashion design programs until July 29. The exhibit is from Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

As an example of how the project would work, Mr. Torres pointed at a colorful knapsack made by Design student Kim Davis, next to the painting made by artist Chico Joaquin.

“If someone’s interested to develop this knapsack and mass produce this, the proceeds will be divided between Kim Davis, who’s an Industrial Design student, and Chico Joaquin,” the curator explained. “The proceeds will be split between them.”

What makes the works of these artists unique? For starters, they aren’t bogged down by the so‑called rules of art. “They have a different way of looking at the world and it is manifested in their art—the way they convert it into colors, shape and lines is different,” said Mr. Torres.

“The way they do art is different. Very unique. Very brave. No rules. 100% focus.”

For the project, the design students of DLS‑CSB were given the digital files of the artworks they would base their designs on. “Through the digital file, the students were able to manipulate and extract their designs,” Mr. Torres said. “The artwork could be transformed into endless possibilities because it's digital.”

And what came out of this project were designs as unique as the artists themselves.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

The first thing you’ll see when you go to Jorel Alegre’s exhibit is a large painting of a tiger emerging from the shore. A Grade 11 student at the De La Salle University Integrated School, Mr. Alegre plays with light and shadow in his works, sparking up his art with highlights and shading. From his works, design students made eye‑catching cellphone cases that will make your mobile devices absolutely fierce.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

Vico Cham, 25, surprised his architect father when he was ten years old with a painting that he did on one of his blueprints. His painting Clown Fish won the Austism Trust Foundation Global Visual Arts Competition at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2014. He enjoys painting sea life, flowers, girls, and Disney characters. His work inspired jewelry designs, centerpieces and stickers that will add a feminine touch to your manly motorcycle.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

“Enjoy my art, carry a piece of my heart ♥,” is the message left by Julyan Harrison on the wall of his exhibit. The 25‑year‑old is a young man with many hobbies, including farming, cooking, baking, biking and surfing. He is currently making art at Zambawood in Zambales. His colorful and wonderfully textured paintings of sea life inspired relaxing furniture and decor that's perfect for a summer beach house.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

Inspired by the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro and Paul Klee, 16‑year‑old Chico Joaquin listens to classical music while he paints. He does colorful and abstract depictions of people and animals, and creates short comic books and stop motion videos as well. A painting that takes off from spider Halloween decorations inspired design students to make a playful spider wallpaper, a webbed purple coat, and even an eight‑legged chair.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

The childlike and expressive drawings of Samantha Kaspar evokes memories of a much simpler time in our lives. The creative young lady enjoys not only painting, but also playing the violin, singing and ice skating. Her works inspired cloth dolls based on her characters, wallpapers and decor that children would be happy to have in their room.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

Karl Oliveros, 42, is skilled at something that most people have trouble with—beating deadlines. The time‑conscious artist’s talent lies in duplicating the art of others, and unlike his contemporaries in the exhibit, paints very realistic looking pictures of flowers, butterflies and fish. A wallpaper of butterflies and steel floral accents inspired from his works will add freshness to any room.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

As a child, Muneer Pena, now 21, had this quirk of opening and closing doors over and over again, especially when he’s in a new place. His fascination with architecture shows in his paintings of houses and churches, most with open doors and windows that lead to lush gardens. His religious mother considers him a gift from God. His work, in turn, inspired tiles seemingly hand painted with leaves and interior design arrangements that seamlessly bring the outdoors in.

Photo Samantha Gonzales

The parents of 17‑year‑old Daniel Sanchez enrolled him to art classes when he was younger to give him an outlet to express how he feels. “Because he had a speech problem, I couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell me, so I asked him to draw it,” said his mother. After three years of training, he just kept on drawing and drawing, just like the herd horses in his paintings keep running and running. His works are sometimes abstract, sometimes realistic, and filled with action. Naturally, a pair of shoes was inspired from his painting, as well as jewelry, a chair of roses, and a matching wallpaper.

“This exhibit is just the start. We are going to work with our Intellectual Property Office so if there’s a need for any arrangements between the artists and the designers in the future, this office, which is in Benilde, will be the one in charge to make sure that everybody is fairly treated,” said Mr. Torres.

So we look forward for products to be made from these colorful designs, knowing that the money we spend on them will go to the artists who deserve it.