Embracing Neurodiversity: An ArtAbility Recap

Nov 7, 2019

As Long Island’s largest special needs art show, our objective for ArtAbility 2019 was to celebrate diversity and talent in the arts through a beautiful reception and exhibition held at our base in South Huntington. We’re humbled to say that the event was an absolute success, with over 200 in attendance and sales that exceeded our expectations. 

But perhaps the most rewarding outcome of this event was seeing the joy in the faces of our students; most of which saw their work in a professional setting for the very first time. With over 150 pieces on display, the landscape of neurodiversity saturated our walls in the most glorious way imaginable. 

Every student under our array of classes comes from a different neurological background. With the amount of narratives we’ve seen expressed through lines and colors: narratives of struggles and hardships in life, stress and tensions, and difficulties fitting in with others, we at the Spirit of Huntington figured these students were something truly worth celebrating.

Neurodiversity is our ethos. As a hub for art, we’re all too fond of how conceptual and emotional art can be. Founder Erich Preis can attest to this wholeheartedly. With a degree in art history and a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, Preis’ life experience helped him to identify art as “something that heals”.

Executive Director Michael Kitakis is an artist as well. He recalls his best pieces being created during times of distress, unhappiness, and frustration. To say art was on outlet for Kitakis would be an understatement. Art was his way of healing, just as it was for Preis. 

The sensation of healing that only art could provide was one both Preis and Kitakis felt needed to be explained and shared to others. With the formation of the Spirit of Huntington Art Center in late 2010, their mission has been to heal the community through art, especially for populations that need it the most. 

“These populations need that opportunity for creative expression that can help heal their emotions and scars and really make a difference in their lives,” says Kitakis. “We feel blessed to not only offer that at the center, but witness their stories and experiences firsthand through the art.”

“The voices of the special needs population need to be heard,” says Creative Director James Young. “Those are the people that go through some of the greatest hardships of life. The more real and more honest the artist is with their pain, the better I feel the art is. We need to experience life from the perspectives of these people to really understand and appreciate the art.” 

Anu Annam, one of our very talented teachers, spoke highly of our program, saying ”it is an inclusive environment for special needs and developing individuals—the way the world should be.”

Our audience was truly amazed with the artwork and the atmosphere, with even a robust number of sales made. None of this could have been done without the resilience and creativity of our neurodiverse students, along with our wide network of partners. 

With over a dozen partners that our team works with each week, it’s truly a blessing to be teaching art to such a wide range of students. With over 200 students coming through the center each week, we continue to see how creative expression can transform lives, and could not have been more pleased with how it all turned out.

Thank you to The Viscardi Center, Mercy Haven Inc., Independent Support Services Inc., Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, OrcaSmart, South Huntington Union-Free School District, HKM Associates, Adler Center for Special Needs, Charles and Karen Lehr, Life’s WORC, Whitestone Associates, Christensen’s Plumbing, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian, Tourette Association of America, Autism Speaks, HALO Network of Services, Mark Wittenberg, Solarus Technologies, Girls Inc., and fivestar Marketing and Advertising for their generosity and commitment to making this an night to remember. 

Your support has made this all possible, and we are excited for many, many more prosperous events to benefit our charity and the world at large.

View our Facebook photo album of the event here!

2 Melville Road North

Huntington Station, NY 11746


EIN#: 46-3038008

Proud grant recipient of Autism Speaks
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