Drawing Autism: Inside the Minds of Artists on the Spectrum

Steven Sandor "SELPAL", Inside-Outside Vortex from "Dream Series" . 1987

Steven Sandor “SELPAL”, Inside-Outside Vortex from “Dream Series” . 1987

Art has always been a way to communicate thoughts, feelings, and sensibilities when simple words just wouldn’t do.  And for those with disabilities, art can even be life-changing when they can tell their stories in new ways. Extending the act of “listening” can open us all up to surprising tales and shared realities.

Wonderful article on artwork from those with autism.

Drawing Autism: Inside the Minds of Artists on the Spectrum


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Slowing Down To Nature



Many people don’t realize how much artist, architects, and other designers pull from nature to inspire their work. Some take a more conceptual approach while others may take a very literal interpretation of the form.  It has become a bit of a lost art as many of us rush around trying to make ends meet.  That’s why it’s so important to support artists like photographer Daniel Stoupin who dedicate their work to capturing nature in a way that can still shock and awe the world.  I can already see new color combinations and textures to be used as well as form and depths.


Slow Life from Daniel Stoupin on Vimeo.

Staying connected to nature helps us to remember that we are part of this amazing nature, not separate. Our bodies are not machines, but pulses with the rhythms of those around it. Creating sensitive and respectful environments in our homes and communities help bring back the gracefulness of being fully human.

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Doggie Wellness – Green with Envy Dog Houses

Design by landscape architect, Stephanie Rubin.

Design by landscape architect, Stephanie Rubin.

With summer fast approaching and record heats on the rise, keeping our pets cool and comfortable will be even more crucial for their health and well-being. Designing a dog house with a green roof may just be the ticket to a happier and healthier family member. Similar to a typical human-scale building, dog house green roofs can help lower the temperature inside by absorbing much of the sun’s radiation, holding in moisture to help cool the inside spaces.

GreenRoof Dog House-2

Winner of the American Institute of Architects-Barkitecture Competition.

With proper installation of a moisture barrier and grow weave mat, you can make a new or existing doghouse green in no time. For the lowest maintenance, choose plant that are native or adaptive to your climate. These plants tend to thrive happily with little to no watering, just the natural rain of the seasons. An herb or vegetable garden are also possibilities as well as mosses and grasses. Of course, always choose plants that are non-toxic to dogs. For a good start, check out the ASPCA’s list of best plant choices.

Doghouse by KPF Architects; shape inspired by how dogs twirl before settling to rest.

Doghouse by KPF Architects; shape inspired by how dogs twirl before settling to rest.

A patch of green grass can also become another lounge area for your pup if the structure can hold up. Dogs love their grass which help cool off their body heat when they lay on top. Grass is also instinctually eaten by dogs to aid in digestion. Planting your own grass organically, using organic soil and seeds, can assure your dog is eating only the best.

GreenRoof Dog House-1

Hugo, a French bulldog, with his eco-doghouse and its succulent garden, in Mill Valley, Calif. (DREW KELLY / The New York Times)

A green roof with a well designed building and plenty of water can keep your dog comfy cozy in those mid-day heats and give the rest of the family a great project to learn about sustainable design and our connection to the environment.

Happy Building!




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Unfold the Magic of Healing Through Origami

Rainbow Origami

One of my heart-felt inspirations for connecting art, architecture, and wellness has stemmed from appreciating the art of Origami. Seemingly simplistic in nature, it offers a multitude of complex learning layers that stretch both mind, body, and spirit in ways the newest software program can never offer. Practicing Origami has been used for decades to help those with learning disabilities, improve motor skills, increase the minds spatial capabilities, teach patience, build self-esteem, sharpen verbal and visual memory, attention and concentration, sequencing verbal reasoning, visual perception, and endlessly more.

5th Graders learning origami at Marymount International School in Rome

5th Graders learning origami at Marymount International School in Rome

Origami is a non-threatening craft that can be learned by any culture, age-range, or ability because the craft ranges to the most simple such as the cranes shown above, to more complex pieces such as this unicorn by origami artist, Marc Kirschenbaum.

Unicorn by Marc Kirschenbaum, origami artist, designer, and board member of OrigamiUSA

Unicorn by Marc Kirschenbaum, origami artist, designer, and board member of OrigamiUSA

According to Hagit Shalev, founder/director of Theragami and origami teacher at the Museum of Natural History in New York, “Since the art of Origami is based on a language of symbols, another natural educational objective that can be applied through Origami is reading. Reading is based on association of symbols and sounds. Origami is based on association of symbols and actions. Some reading specialists contend that while students are involved in folding papers, they are developing essential reading skills in three main areas: perceiving a sign as a symbol, recognizing it and interpreting its meaning. By the virtue of the children’s desire to produce a three dimensional model teachers can use Origami to reinforce reading. This medium is especially helpful when dealing with children with language based disability for whom reading is a struggle.”

Cross-generational experiences in learning

Cross-generational experiences in learning

Ms. Shalev also points out the more obvious connection to the many areas of mathematics. “Origami provides a highly engaging and motivating environment within which children extend their geometric experience and the skill of spatial visualization. With its richness in mathematical topics, students literally manipulate the concepts that they are learning. Origami demonstrates the fact that mathematics is a subject that can involve exploration.”

Folding Lamp via Yanko Designs

Folding Lamp via Yanko Designs


Origami-inspired door

Origami-inspired door by Klemens Torgglers

Origami-inspired Klein Bottle House; photo by John Gollings

Origami-inspired Klein Bottle House; photo by John Gollings

Japanese Play using Origami. Art direction by Tetusin Design Office

Japanese Play using big Origami. Art direction by Tetusin Design Office

Now I’m a neophyte when it comes to doing origami, but I can strive to have more mindful, calming, disciplined, curious, and playful habits in my life. Wellness grows from healthy daily habits. So the next time you have some idle time on your hands, instead of reaching for the remote or your cell phone, pick up a piece of paper and fold a little magic.

 For more information on Theragami, visit http://www.theragami.com


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An Artful Garden is Nothing to Sneeze At

Garden Patio

My favorite art form will always be the purity of nature. Whether it’s viewing a majestic horizon or looking at a fresh fallen leaf through a magnifying glass, nature is the best teacher.  Surrounding yourself with plants help provide more oxygen and cleans the air of impurities. But for some, natural elements can bring about fear and anxiety. Why? It’s because of the debilitating pollen that wrecks havoc over their senses triggering asthma and allergies sometimes for days.

With much more attention towards creating healthier environments, there is now a set of standards that can help even the most sensitive allergy sufferer enjoy the benefits of plants. “OPALS” which stands for Ogen Plant Allergy Scale is the world’s first plant-allergy scale now being used by the American Lung Association and the USDA Foresters. On a scale of 1 to 10, choosing plants from 1-5 and getting rid of those ranked in the 6-10 range will help assure you will be breathing well in no time.

Indoor Garden with Tree

Another tip is to replace high pollen plants with female trees or female shrubs which have low or no pollen. Almost all ash, red maple, silver maple, box elder, yew, holly, mulberry, cedar, or juniper that produce seed, fruit or berries is a female plant. Plants that flower are also known to be very low pollen producers such as plum, apricot, peach, camellia, hawthorn, and pomegranate trees.

So stop that sniffling. Get creative bringing nature back into your homes. Breath deeper bringing oxygen into every cell of your body. Clear your head, and be ready to face a new day.

More information on OPALS, check out: http://www.allergyfree-gardening.com/opals.html

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Creative Exercising-Stair Art

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate activity every week. How we choose to fit this into our already busy schedules is all up to us.

Using the creative mind can bring us to stop making excuses and figure out how to incorporate healthy habits in a fun way. Having a supportive environment can encourage body movement, lift the spirit, and bring people together. That’s what Volkswagen had in mind when starting this sensational public experiment for their Fun Theory project.

Here is one of my favorite examples where creativity, public art, and health come together. Exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or popping in the workout dvd. Designing in creative ways that encourage playful body movement can add delight and attention to the otherwise robotic daily routine. Play, enjoy, and get moving.

Play Video

Creative Exercising – Stair Art – Stockholm


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Art Makes You Smart

Art not only makes you healthier, it makes you smarter. Take a stroll with a beginner’s mind through your local museum to gain a spark of something new and to stretch and challenge your current perspectives.

New York Times: Art Makes You Smart

Photo by: Alain Pilon

Photo by: Alain Pilon

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Free Trees for Home Comfort and Wellness

Placing the right trees in the correct locations on your property can really make a difference is saving you money and creating a home of comfort and wellness. Evergreen trees can provide a sound buffer, security, and wind protection all year round. Deciduous trees filter the sunlight and heat into the home with the natural seasons’ sun pattern changes. This saves energy, therefore your money, by minimizing the amount of electricity needed to run your heater or your AC unit. Trees also convert carbon dioxide in the environment to much need oxygen for better air quality.

The Arbor Day Foundation has a program which will provide you with free trees and teach you the best locations for your home location.  Check out http://energysavingtrees.arborday.org/start.cfm and see how much you can save on your specific location.

Planting a tree can signify new beginnings of life and every-changing seasons of hope. We just have to reach out and take it.

Happy Planting…..and Holidays All!!

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Live Longer By Better Sound Design

We live in a world where people focus on the visual and tactile qualities of a design more than sound. What more and more research is showing is how important sound control is for the quality of learning, productivity, and overall health.

Now most responsible architects and engineers, especially those who design assembly spaces and newer hospitals, are very aware of controlling sound and there are standards in place for design guidelines, but maybe the standards need to be raised. Acoustical engineers are specialists in the field and may be appropriate for specific requirements.

What architects can do is to stay aware and informed, so they can be stronger advocate for sound control as a valued quality within spaces. I agree that there are a lot of architects out there who mainly design for that “money shot” for their portfolio, so what clients can do is to make sure sound control is addressed as a concern in the design process and not have it left by the wayside. Sound is much easier to address in the initial building process than as an afterthought.

Thanks Julian Treasure for your insight and “sound” advice. – pun intended :)

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Arts and The Mind

Dancing Heart program at the Deer Crest Assisted Living in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Art, in all forms, is a magical elixir. Alzheimer’s researchers call it a powerful tool to ward off dementia. Troubled teens use it to find meaning in the world around them—and in themselves often transporting them from painful realities to brighter places. It offers measurable healing to both chronically ill toddlers and veterans battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Art plays a vital role in human development during both youth and older age, and shares stories and cutting edge scientific research on how music, dance, painting, poetry and theater markedly improve well-being at both ends of life.” – PBS

Science and Art come together to show a fundamental relationship which leads to vitality and wellness throughout our lifetimes. Practicing art instills the habit in people to try something new and to stretch their awareness of their own potential. In any situation, being able to find unique and unconventional solutions to life’s challenges is invaluable to living a life with unlimited options.

Be proactive when it comes to enriching your life by watching and participating in creative endeavors. Learn more from the enlightening documentary by PBS called Arts & the Mind-The Art of Connection

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