We’re passionate about our mission to obsolete tobacco cigarettes. When we get the opportunity to meet other passionate individuals, it makes our hearts soar. Vito Bonanno is one of these people. An artist with Autism, he and his mother are out to make a difference. They’re really truckin’! At Bushwick Open Studios this past weekend, we stopped by the Truckin’ With Vito! mobile art museum to chat with Vito’s mother Cindy about their crusade for artists with Autism.
NJOY: So tell us about the Truckin’ With Vito! truck we’ve got here.
Cindy: The art mobile has several purposes. It started out as an avenue to showcase the artist’s work and merchandise in a retail setting that could go where the opportunities would be – being able to put the “storefront” on a busy street on a busy day to help increase visitors and, ultimately, sales. It created an entrepreneurial business opportunity for Vito. It also allows passersby, who may not typically visit an art gallery, to have a chance to experience art and have an unexpected cultural encounter.
NJOY: Why is it important that people are aware of the lack of art education for those with Autism?
Cindy: Well, in Vito’s case, his formal art instruction (beginning in 2007) has been one of “seek and maybe ye shall find.” His family worked tirelessly to find art organizations that would consider taking on a special student one-on-one, as that used to be the only learning environment that worked for him. He has progressed, but each time he needs to move his craft forward, the search is on again for the next artist mentor – and it sounds easier than it is to get done. As we forge this path for Vito and his knowledge and talent develop, it makes me think of how many other talented artists are out there that will never be able to know their full potential because they don’t have anyone to fight for them.
Those with Autism should not be left out because they don’t have access to the proper financial, business and educational instruction that most other young adults have at their fingertips with regard to art specific vocational schools, state colleges and national universities. Most of these institutions have not implemented suitable classroom and teacher-to-student ratio situations or the necessary modified curriculum that would be required to accommodate people on the spectrum. It’s a tall order, but why should this Autistic population not have the same opportunities as the rest of us? The CDC recently announced that 1 in 66 children are diagnosed with Autism. How can we ignore this statistic? When do we begin to make some noise to have proper higher education available for these children when they become young adults? I think we better start now.
NJOY: And how can the community get involved with your cause?
Cindy: Communities can help by making sure any local art-related programs investigate how they can provide access to their programs to those with ASD. States need to provide funding to these organizations so they can take the next steps and create proper programs, and states need to create their own programs for those with Autism. Nationally, our government needs to provide incentives and funding for colleges and universities to create academically appropriate programs in the arts for people on the spectrum.
Truck’n With Vito! has the support of some people at the state level and we need to keep this journey moving forward. Please check out our Indiegogo campaign for more information.
NJOY: Certainly! And you mentioned Vito is actually a cigarette smoker who just tried NJOY. I’ve gotta know – what did he think?
Cindy: When I asked Vito how he liked his NJOY, I got the classic Vito answer: “Love it!”