One Mid-Michigan man is sharing his talents with the community to express himself, and to raise awareness about autism. Anthony Collar's love of drawing as a young child has turned into a thriving family business, Art of Autism.
Smiling faces, holiday memories, Michigan scenery - Anthony Collar's art shows his creativity and joyful spirit,
"We learned a long time ago that Anthony expresses himself through his art because his conversational skills are limited," said Stefeni Collar, Anthony's mother. "So when you look at his drawings, see so many of his ideas, what he's trying to communicate comes to life."
Stefeni noticed her son was different from his other brothers and sisters at a young age. He was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old, right about the time he began drawing.
"His teachers gave him a crayon and paper to draw and it settled him down. He became focused, and carried on with the day," Stefeni said. "We learned early on that drawing was something that kept him happy."
From then on, Anthony took his drawing notebook with him everywhere. Now 26, he says a lot of his artwork is inspired by the holidays.
"Thanksgiving, Christmas, happy new year, Valentine's, birthday," Anthony lists. "Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Father's Day, Independence Day."
His family is in many of his drawings, as well.
"Seeing the drawings Anthony has done brings our family so much joy," said Stefeni, showing a card depicting their family at her brother's cottage. "To see that this is such a happy memory for him, it just brings it home and warms our hearts."
By creating Art of Autism, Anthony and Stefeni hope to warm the hearts of others,
"So when we're at a show," Stefeni explained. "If we don't sell one card, but we've made someone happy or we've given someone hope with autism, then we've done our job."
Stefeni also hopes the business gives Anthony a sense of accomplishment and independence, and shows people the sky is the limit with children who have autism.
"Our hope is that we can give hope to people and share our story," Stefeni said. "So that we're able to communicate that whatever a child's gifts are, to seek out what that child's abilities are. Every individual has something to give."
The family hopes to eventually expand the business and help Anthony become financially independent, but they say right now it's just a joy to see him do what he loves and help other people with autism.
The gift shop at Sparrow Hospital recently started selling his designs, along with several other galleries and shops in the Lansing area.
For more information about Art of Autism, visit www.artofautism.net.