Life On The Spectrum

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Artists who participate in this gallery exhibition are tasked with creating a piece of any medium they choose as long as it addresses the given prompt:  Both neurodivergent and neurotypical artists were encouraged to apply and draw on their personal experiences with autism. Let’s all come together to talk about what it really means to be on the spectrum.

Artist Testimonies

Survey Outcomes

WCCO Radio Interview with Rose Cooper

Mediums- Paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, printmaking, etc.
Subjects- Autism, Neurodivergent, celebrate our differences

  Grand Hand Gallery  619 Grand Ave   Saint. Paul, MN

Life on the Spectrum is an Art To Change the World Intern project designed by Rose Cooper

Rose Cooper

Earned her Associate of Fine Arts Degree from Inverhills Community College and Is currently pursuing her BA in Studio Arts from the University of Minnesota. Her primary medium is painting; through her work, she loves to explore the relationship between light and darkness, metaphorically and literally.  By doing self-portraits Rose found a way to process her life and the world around her, while simultaneously expressing her emotions in a way that her words can’t.

“One of the most common themes I express in my work is: no matter how dark things may seem there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,”

Her work can be seen in person at the Red Wing Artisan Collective.

Her website: not only displays her work, but also the work of other fine artists she collaborates with from the twin cities.

Painter, storyteller


The purpose of Life On the Spectrum is to start a conversation on the topic of autism and neurodivergence. A celebration of our differences.

Tara Tuchel

“I am a speech/language pathologist who has been teaching young autistic children for over 2 decades. I’ve had the unique position to run my own communication-based classroom and team teaching with a special education teacher. Over the past 2 decades, I’ve spoken at numerous state and national conferences on the topic of play and autism.  I’m the recipient of the Start Of Excellence Award by the Hudson School District in Wisconsin.  I also am an adjunct faculty member at Hamline University and teach graduate level courses in the autism license program.  I had the opportunity to travel to Russia in 2015 and 2016 to work side by side with their special education teachers to demonstrate best practice strategies for working with young autistic children.  I started Autism Little Learners in March of 2019, about 6 weeks after I lost my dad to leukemia. My dad was one of my favorite people in the whole world. He was my biggest fan! The grief was so deep and so raw after he died that I needed something to distract my mind from the pain. Prior to that, I had been thinking about starting a store on Teachers Pay Teachers. This is because I already made so many of my own materials for my classroom. It can be so difficult to find good resources that are at the right level. Especially for 3 and 4-year-old autistic children! I figured that I couldn’t be the only one having this issue. So I started creating resources and activities for educators and parents of young autistic children.  These resources and trainings now have a global reach.  I love helping parents and teachers feel more confident in building authentic connections with children, supporting regulation skills, and developing predictable routines,”

Artists and Testimonies

Rose Cooper: I have two siblings with autism. I have seen firsthand the heartbreaking discrimination and negativity they face in the world. I want to show how there is so much more to who they are than just this one aspect of them.

Soon-Wai Wong: Soon-Wai Wong is a self-taught artist who is on the spectrum. He is supported by Fresh Eye Arts, a progressive art studio in the Twin Cities. We strive to find exhibitions where the artists with disabilities that we serve can expand their audience and engage with other artists.

Alkemy Frost: I’m Neurodivergent and want to help people better understand what that means.

Frances Bates: One of the best pieces of advice someone gave to me about my autism is to see it as a challenge not a weakness. This encouraged me to be who I was and pursue what I was passionate about. Autism is just one part of my identity but as someone who loves to help people, it often influences my art. From colors to textures to sounds we all see the world a little differently. To create a more immersive experience when it comes to my art most of my pieces are interactive. By making a more fun environment for someone they can really enjoy the art.

 Madalina Kelner: I’m participating in Life On The Spectrum because it’s important to create art and share a story or experience in a way that is new and different for viewers. There’s so many articles, posts, journals on the autistic experience but you hit a different audience and strike a differ cord when discussing any topic, for this gallery it’s Autism, through art. All of a sudden someone may understand better with a creative  interpretation what my experiences may look or feel like. My art almost always is created to amplify my own voice and or the voices of others who may be scrutinized or misunderstood by the majority. I believe art is a powerful way to story tell and discuss topics in a way that is memorable. I believe my art and my story can enhance that experience.

 Suzanne Simmalavong: As a neurodivergent who has finally embraced one self; I was able to unpeel to untie, learn to love, fear to fearless, and surrender to self. Objects and things are my current muse. See beauty in them, as we see beauty through each one’s brain.  I want to share my brain thoughts, they are different than most. I want to learn, help people understand social justice is more than a topic.

Candy Kuehn: Candy Kuehn creates wearable art, digital art, and works in numerous other mediums.  She makes art pieces that are functional, with multiple uses that can change with the passage of time. Many works live both on the wall, the body, on the ceiling, on the floor and the stage. As a painter her medium ranges from IPhone Apps, fabric dyes to ceramic glazes. Her work features whatever makes a person or space, beautiful and moving. Her work has appeared at the Textile Center of Minnesota, in local productions as Projection Sets, and framed in local galleries. The Woods is her Muse.

Mikayla Holmgren: I am a very creative person.My art ranges from paintings to handmade jewelry to choreographing dances. My art is full of fun to inspire others.I love to photograph images that catch my eye.I can spend hours drawing or taking photos.I just want to do more with my abilities to show inclusion. My inspiration comes from my mom, who love art.She encourages me to keep doing art.

JobyLynn Sassily-James: As an autistic person I feel like Covid was a big turning point in an already uphill battle for us. It
made it ok for everyone to say we are all the same. It is widely accepted now because the
words “we are all in this together” permeated the minds of everyone hearing them.
When the worst was over, life went back to as normal as it could but people changed. Those
who had lives before that had them living outside their homes were having trouble getting back
to it. Once reemerging from their homes, it seemed that the world became “socially awkward”
overnight and in doing so, they have started to believe that they know what it was like to be me
and started telling me so. It reinforced the feeling that I had, that people just think that autism
is either nonverbal low functioning or high functioning “socially awkward” with no in-between.
There is no understanding of what autism really is.
Far too often I am expected to not only understand the “rules” created by those I’m
outnumbered by, neurotypicals, but to act appropriately abiding by them.
I began to wonder if we had ever gotten past the months and certain dates that were used to
“bring awareness” would it have been any different? I always felt that if people were unaware
that we existed then they just didn’t care to pay attention and they never would. I think if we
need an awareness day or month now that has anything to do with autism or other illnesses, it
needs to be for the forgotten “ism”, ableism.
Ableism is not a word that is frequently used and even understood. Many people have told me
they have never even heard of it. Ableism is a word we need to hear more of.


-Start:  July 10th (set up)     Stop: August 4
-Artwork Statement due: June 19th (May be up to 8.5 x 11) to drop off date: Artists deliver Art June 26th – July 5th to Grand Hand Gallery 619 Grand Ave, St. Paul, MN 55102
-Other Activities: Artist Talk, Music, Community Discussion(s)
-Closing Date: August 4th
-Artwork Pick Up Date: August 5th – 7 th
Stipend for participation: $100.00
If you have questions contact Rose Cooper