Artist with autism wins award, scores first solo exhibit

CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) – With little more than a blank canvas, 20-year-old Lance Bannister is painting a path forward for other adults like him with autism.

“Lance has been drawing since he could hold a pencil,” said his mother, Amy Bannister. “Long before he had speech.”

That talent was taken up by Joe Smargisso, an art teacher at Haddon Heights High School.

“This is probably one of the highlights of my career to be able to have the opportunity to work with a student who creates art purely for art’s sake,” said Smargisso.

Bannister is a student of the REACH program at Haddon Heights High School. Recently, he was awarded third place by the Penn Museum for his contributions in the YALE Tri-State Disability Art Show. His recent accomplishments were celebrated by the school, which prompted the idea to create his first solo art exhibit.

“We had realized that this body of work should really be seen and appreciated by people beyond our school community,” said Smargisso.

Bannister, now an award-winning artist, is proud to display his work at the Camden County College Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Several dozen of his pieces, featuring collages, sketches, and paintings, will be adorning the walls until the end of the month.

It’s an opportunity that Bannister’s mom is thrilled about and hopes inspires more opportunities for adults with disabilities.

“Especially autism but all disabilities, I mean, services really start drying up at 18,” she said. “It’s great that we have this opportunity to showcase that there is a life for kids past 18.”

To learn more about Lance Bannister and his work, visit his website.

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