Immersion in art opens a whole new world for Ethyn

Photo of 3 artworks done by Ethyn

A gifted paint set has proven to be more than just something for 17-year-old Ethyn to have a bit of fun with

The birthday present has opened a whole new world for Ethyn. One which centres on both a love of art and producing his own artworks while he transitions from school life into a career centring on creativity.

Ethyn has autism and is non-verbal and, like many other school students, during COVID-19 needed to be educated at home.

This initially proved challenging for his family however art soon became one of his favourite subjects. The flow on effect for him was improved communication and engagement.

Ethyn, wearing a green shirt smiling up at the camera

His passion for painting has now turned from a hobby into his own microenterprise with Ethyn having produced more than 100 works since his birthday earlier this year.

Local National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provider Valued Lives has been the key support for Ethyn’s venture into microenterprise.

Clare Gibellini, project lead for ILC at Valued Lives, said the organisation’s philosophy was everyone had the right to work and should have access to flexible and tailored supports to build capacity and skills to get meaningful employment.

Clare said Valued Lives had a strong interest in the development of microenterprises for marginalised people in the community.

“Ethyn has been part of the Microenterprise Project since late 2019, and when the team first met with Ethyn and his family, we saw a spark in him that we knew meant he was destined for great things,” Clare said.

Ethyn’s mum Naomi said the family bought Ethyn paints for his birthday after they saw him watching his sister paint.

“We decided for his birthday in January to buy a set of pouring paints to try. Little did we realise how much our young man was going to love this and be keen to do more when we provided him with more paints to play with,” Naomi said.

She said the activity held so much value for Ethyn and since becoming involved with art he had become more interactive with the family and his support workers.

“He is more aware of what happens in daily life and tasks that take place while having the space to develop his skills in life as well as his art,” Naomi said.

She said Ethyn is working with three styles of artwork and all are unique to the day, his colour choice, mood, and technique.

Ethyn signing a finished art piece

“On average he creates 12 pieces a week if not more. Space is becoming an issue as we have a lot of amazing pieces to store”

She said the future for Ethyn would involve developing his love for art into a microenterprise and building his Instagram following. Also, for him to be out in the community being independent and to mature into the best version of himself that he could be.

“Ultimately to have more pieces of his work in homes everywhere to show that anything is possible if you are willing to try new things and are patient with the challenges that may come along the way,” she added.

Naomi said they began selling Ethyn’s art at the end of May and, to date, they have sold 60 pieces.

Their Local Area Coordinator from APM assisted Ethyn with access to the NDIS and now Ethyn has both choice and control in his life. He can participate in activities which have meaning to him while becoming independent both at home and in the wider community.

Clare said Valued Lives’ microenterprise team all have lived experience of disability, knowledge in the setting up of microenterprises and a passionate interest in the development of microenterprise within WA.

“Ethyn’s business advisor Gina, who also has a disability, has worked alongside Ethyn and his support network to identify his skills and talents, harnessing that passion into a viable business opportunity.”

Clare explained microenterprise played a highly important role in employment creation and income generation opportunities for low-income people.

“The Fremantle Microenterprise Hub is a whole community space where marginalised people, including people with a disability, can develop and run their own small business, with the support and mentoring of the Valued Lives Microenterprise Project team based at the Hub,” said Clare.

Naomi said Valued Lives had been an amazing support and had helped with Ethyn's Discovery Journey to find his passion.

“They have been a strong drive behind us moving forward with Ethyn to gain a meaningful life. Both Clare and Gina have been a driving force.”

To view or purchase Ethyn’s colourful artworks follow him on Instagram: @ethyn.amat

As part of the NDIS Partners in the Community program, APM Communities help people with disability in several regions in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to access support.