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Beanrunner Cafe Displaying Work Of Seven Autistic Students

Jesse Steiner in front of artwork made by students on the autism spectrum.
Jesse Steiner in front of artwork made by students on the autism spectrum. Photo Credit: Contributed

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- Seven Walden School students and one former student—all of whom are on the autism spectrum—are exhibiting their artwork at the Bean Runner Café in Peekskill this week.

The show, which was the brainchild of Peekskill artist Wilfredo Morel and artist Donna Mikkelsen, is on display all week and will have a reception Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Beanrunner, 201 South Division Street in Peekskill.

“So often we focus on what students with autism can’t do instead of focusing on what they can do,” said Jesse Steiner, art teacher. “To successfully make art, I look for something that each student can do and wants to do. Then we use that activity to make art.”

For Scotty Yaremko, a 14-year-old student who likes to twirl something in his hands, Steiner provided wooden discs that could be soaked in water color paint. Yaremko spun the discs on paper creating abstract art.

Another student, Casey Aguiar, 20, used trays of ice to create artwork that was constantly changing as the ice melted. Aguiar painted the ice and photos were taken at various stages as the ice melted, resulting in colorful abstract artworks.

“All of the work with kids is about process more than product,” Steiner said. “Even when the end result is beautiful, it is not what is really important. It is the experience the kids have making it and pride they feel at having made it.”

Former Walden student Evan Wolfsdorf, 18, is also represented in the show. Wolfsdorf's paintings are recreations of works by master artists. One is "Midsummer Eve" by Edward Robert Hughes, and the other is "Spring in Town" by Grant Wood.

Steiner said Wolfsdorf's process for creating artwork is to take on the persona of the famous artist. By researching biographical information about the artist and employing dramatic techniques like accents and gestures, Wolfsdorf recreates the physical presence of each artist as a means of reinterpreting their life and work.

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