The mural is part of SMART’s autism awareness campaign.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, but Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) is planning to raise awareness all month.
The therapy center launched its awareness campaign today: Natalie Palumbo, a student form Ringling College of Art and Design, started a 2-part mural on one of the center’s barns.
For Palumbo, who is from Maryland, the project means more than just getting her name out. The 21-year-old’s older brother, Anthony, is autistic.
He wasn’t always able to communicate with her, she said, but drawing became a special way for them to express themselves to each other.
“He would point to something for me to draw,” Palumbo said. “If it holds his interest and focus, I know I’ve done something right.”
The two parts of the mural depict a young boy and girl making an emotional connection with a horse. Palumbo said she’s going for a “realistic Worhol” look, a screen-print style painting with warm sepia tones.
When the mural is finished, Matt Bruback, who is acting as the campaign promoter, will light the painting blue for World Autism Awareness Day. Bruback is the creator of the Miracle Belt, a weighted therapy belt that helps children with special needs and sensory disorders with focus, coordination and self-calming.
SMART’s campaign will culminate with an event April 23 for families with autism. The riding therapy center has 24 sponsors and is seeking more.
“It seemed like a good opportunity to bring community families together,” said Jody Jorgensen, the program coordinator.
To become a sponsor, email [email protected] and include Autism 2016 in the subject.