On Saturday the 19th dozens of Bronxites came out to support the "Art for Autism" event to raise money for autism awareness, advocacy, and support. Taking place at 'El Fogon Center for the Arts' in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, the event featured local Bronx artists who donated over 30 pieces as part of a silent auction, with most of the proceeds going to Autism Speaks, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for research and legislation to aid the parents of autistic children.
Organized by Gladys Rosa LaFrossia and Carmen Acosta-Sanchez, today's event was inspired by the Autism Walk held earlier in the month at Orchard Beach, where they both marched. Gladys, who is also one of the artists, had the idea last year of putting together an art exhibit as a way to raise money for Autism Speaks. After a year of playing around with different ideas, today the pair were able to fulfill their dreams of an art exhibit, featuring 15 local artists who dedicating their time and artwork to raise funds for autism research.
Gladys and Carmen also sought out the assistance of Ricky Quintana, a Bronx DJ and artist, who not only helped to organize the event, but also emceed it and donated some of his own personal artwork to be auctioned off. One of the highlights of the event was when Ricky (aka DJ Menyu) introduced 10 year old Jacob Sanchez who has autism and is the son of Carmen Sanchez, to the stage and sing karaoke to the audience. Ricky spoke about how the people who attended this event represent "the real Bronx", referencing a movement of people looking out for one another.
One of the pieces was developed by Mark Valle, a theater workshop instructor in the Bronx who found inspiration in one of his autistic students. This particular illustration highlights that one in 88 children (at the time) were diagnosed along the autism spectrum, but are no less special than other children. Additionally, there was a fashion designer, Nelly Escalante, who demonstrated two articles of clothing that were meant to inspire autism support. One of these designs included blurred clippings of an IEP, or Individualized Education Program report, a tool frequently used to evaluate autistic children in school. Nelly, who has two autistic children of her own, met Gladys via Facebook and bonded through their artwork. Nelly spoke at the event and shared her own story of trials and acceptance in raising two autistic children, recalling her own personal struggles and how she overcame them through her art and clothing designs.
Speaking with many of the participants and artists, they expressed with great pride how this event was part of the new Bronx, a Bronx that was centered around family, around rallying for a good cause, and about leading by example. The participants also commented and thanked the owners of El Fogon (The Stove), who transformed a former bodega into a cultural center in the middle of a residential neighborhood.