The Power of Art

1 January 2019

“Hello Bella!” said Levi as he lifted his hand up to give me an enthusiastic high five.”Hey Levi!” I said. I moved into my assigned classroom, stunned and delighted.On any other day, in any other situation, this friendly exchange might seem pretty unremarkable.But, you see, Levi is a seventeen-year-old autistic boy with extremely limited verbal abilities and, that particular Saturday morning, Levi not only remembered my name, but he looked directly into my eyes and said it to ME.

Once the class had ended, I mentioned Levi to my mother, who was waiting for me in the reception area. To my surprise, she acted as though the situation was to be expected.”You have that way with people,” she said.”When it comes to art and music, the stuff youโ€™re really passionate about, you can get anyone to listen to you. That’s how people remember you.

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She was right. I never understood the real power of art and music or how much I underestimated myself, until that morning at Heartsong. Levi helped me realize that I was fostering a real connection with him and the other children. For about a year, I had been volunteering at the program, Heartsong, which provides music and art therapy to autistic children and adolescents. Through the use of music and art, these children find creative ways to communicate and express themselves.I believe that music and art helps autistic children overcome their learning and social disabilities to connect with the world around them in new and unexpected ways.

Just as unexpectedly, music and art was also helping ME reach out and connect, not just with autistic youth, but with the world around me. Socially, I am a bit of an outsider. People think I am weird or different because of my interests, especially my music taste. I happen to be part of a worldwide community fueled by an obsessive love of Korean popular music, fashion and art.K-pop is a genre that breaks barriers, is ever changing, and is always unique. People all over the world enjoy K-pop, but it is not mainstream or popular in this country. As a result, it has fundamentally changed my view of the world in ways that are still evolving and that inspire me to open my mind and heart to different ways of connecting with people from all cultures and backgrounds.Through the use of social media to connect me with fans from around the globe who have similar interests, I grew a new sense of courage; not unlike the kind of courage Levi must have needed to give me that high five on that Saturday morning.

As I left Heartsong after hearing Leviโ€™s unexpected greeting, I realized the kind of impact I was having on these children and began to see how K-pop was impacting my own life. Both have opened me up to a whole world of creativity where I can connect and bond with people I would have never met before. Working with autistic kids and being a K-pop fan has forced me to challenge the norm and has helped me become the person I am today, a creative and open-minded person with a confidence I didnโ€™t know I had.

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