Cynthia Drucker is a native of Florida and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. She enjoys the warm weather of south Florida and spent her high school years in Central Florida where she helped her mother raise horses and many small farm animals. She relocated to Miami in the 1980’s where she married and had two sons. Cynthia was a full time working mother when her second son, Brandon was born in 1991 and diagnosed with classic severe autism when he was three years old. When Brandon turned 18, Cynthia formed a social group for teens with autism out of a need for her son to meet others who accept him and form friendships. Today, The Fort Lauderdale Aspergers Group still meets on a monthly basis and continues to grow with Cynthia as the Organizer.
As Brandon aged out of the public school system, he applied several times for traditional employment but was never given the opportunity. Brandon is a self-taught artist who designed a Christmas card at the request of his mother when he was 18. The cards were so well liked, special requests were being made for the upcoming year. Cynthia focused on Brandon’s artistic abilities as the main idea that would eventually evolve into the business plan for Artists With Autism Inc. The simple Christmas card idea has grown into a networking group of aspiring artists with autism expanding the globe.
In May 2012, Artists With Autism, Inc was Founded as a not for profit with four members ranging in age 16 – 26 based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
During the first two and half years, the four “founding members” shared a booth or table at local venues such as outdoor farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and church bazaars selling their artwork and learning the basics of building an art business. As a group, we exhibited on a monthly basis at local galleries, nature centers, universities, book stores, assorted festivals and sidewalk pop ups. Those first experiences interacting with the public would prepare the artists to learn how to manage and maintain the first retail consignment art gallery ever run and maintained by artists with autism for artists with autism. On January 16, 2015 The Artists with Autism Gallery and Gift Boutique opened for business at the Festiva Marketplace in Pompano Beach, Florida. It is the only gallery of its kind and has helped individuals with special needs gain work experience and learn interaction with customers in a live retail environment. The artists learn basics of math with money exchange, customer relations, professionalism and inventory management. The artists are assessed for vocational readiness after a standard set of hours has been observed and are measured in areas of accounting, time management, safety, work performance, ability to adapt and other areas of importance needed for self-employment and other vocations. The artists are encouraged and expected to maintain their own micro-enterprise business with a developed Support Team.
The Autism Art Gallery is sponsored by the Festival Marketplace and is run and maintained with 100% volunteer efforts and public donations. The idea of supported self-employment as a viable alternative for individuals with autism is becoming a very real option for individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities. By focusing on the abilities of those with autism spectrum, Artists With Autism Inc has managed to create a social venture that is not only providing an income for those individuals who have not been able to gain traditional employment, but is also making an impact in the community by dismissing many of the myths about autism. The Autism Art Gallery and Gift Boutique provides the platform needed for their art business start-up, and gives that individual the opportunity to engage with the world on a topic they have created and understand.
The initiative that Artists with Autism, Inc has created with the Gallery is helping to PROMOTE AND INCREASE THE POTENTIAL of individuals with autism and helping to support the idea that Supported Self-employment is a very viable alternative for paid employment for those with autism. Through mentoring and family support, we hope to help create a sustainable business in the Arts for talented aspiring artists with autism.
Our mission Statement:
Brandon J. Drucker was born in Miami Beach, Florida in 1991. He was diagnosed with autism at 3 and became a professional artist at 18. His art is mostly acrylic and can be described as whimsical Fauvism and is often imaginary animals and places. For Brandon, creating art means exploring the familiar and unknown as observed in his popular series, Combo Cities, Combo Animals, and Combo Languages. His first book (2014) “Diary of An Autistic Kid, typical random thoughts of a not so typical kid” was written and illustrated when he was 23 and is a collection of his personal experiences of his struggles with relationships and the behaviors that are often seen as a manifestation of autism.
Jayson Halberstadt was diagnosed with autism/aspergers at 5. Jayson is is a Graphic Designer and Animator. He has studied cartooning under former Disney animator, Al Baruch. His art is mostly digital and has been shown in several local business’ and galleries, as well as The SOHO Gallery for Digital Art in NYC and the Philadelphia Zoo. Jaysons artwork has received recognition from some of his heroes such as Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees and Geddy Lee from the band Rush. His artwork has been published in Virge magazine, Asperkids Coloring book, and Uncommon Minds Poetry book.
Michael was diagnosed with autism at age three. His art is mostly acrylic and digital design. He was born in Arlington, Virginia and moved to Florida when he was seven. He demonstrated a natural talent for art at a young age as he was homeschooled by his mother and was guided to pursue his dreams inspired by the late Disney artist, Al Baruch. He attained his degree in Graphic Design from Broward College and a BA in Studio Design from FAU. Michael currently works as a freelance artist creating logos, illustrations, and magazine covers.
Andres was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and diagnosed with Autism at the age of 7. At that time, he was non-verbal, and severely delayed in both academic and social functioning. Since then, with the support of great teachers and family, he has made amazing progress in all areas. His art style is mostly Anime Art and Cartooning. Andres is an advocate for young people with Autism, and has received the Just Do It Award for his example of leadership. He is the illustrator of “What’s Wrong with Papa? a book about his life.
You can help the Autism Programs in Florida by purchasing the specialty Autism Plate .
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