Artist with autism spectrum disorder proves good role model at Good Purpose gallery

Artist with autism spectrum disorder proves good role model at Good Purpose gallery

By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Justin Canha is a Renaissance artist whose work ranges from thumbnail-sized cartoon replicas penciled onto pages of well-worn composition books to large-scale colorful carnivorous plants created with charcoal and pastels.

The 24-year-old from Montclair, N.J., made his way to the Good Purpose Gallery on Main Street in Lee on Friday afternoon to host a cartooning workshop for students of the Berkshire College Internship Program (CIP), and to later greet people at an artist reception in the evening. His work will be on display until Feb. 5.


Much like a professor, Canha paced between tables of students — some only a few years younger than he — looking over their shoulders at their work. Though mostly silent, he would, at times exclaim a comment of approval, and even crack a smile — “Wow! You work fast,” he told a young man in a maroon hat.

In another moment, he would frown when he caught a student improvising their own character instead of the one listed in the handout. “You’re supposed to be drawing Donkey,” he told a young woman who inked her own character onto her sheet of drawing paper.

But, she didn’t argue. “OK,” she said.

As Canha swiftly swept through his tutorial, the rest of the young adults, 18-year-olds to 20-somethings, kept rapt attention to the drawing board and their respective pages.

Around the room’s periphery, a group of educators, counselors and a filmmaker watched with keen interest the organic connections between Canha and the students being made before them.

Aside from a love for art, Canha and most of the students attending the workshop also share a place on the autism spectrum.

Full Story from “Berkshire Eagle” is here:

Orell said she and her fellow students were interested in attending Canha’s cartooning workshop to see how a young artist like him worked.

‘It’s such a cool opportunity for them,” said CIP Berkshire creative arts coordinator Kyle Goldman. She said like Canha, the CIP arts students also learn all sides of the art world, from creating art, film and theater, to marketing it and coordinating the showing of work. On Feb. 21, for example, CIP Berkshire will partner with Community Reso-
urces for People with Autism to co-present a variety show and benefit for arts programs.

For Orell, Canha and all the other students, validation of whatever abilities they have is the key to their success.

“I have autism,” said Canha, “but my ability is to draw, and drawing can be my real hope in life.”

Berkshire Eagle logo

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.