News Article Details

Young autistic Pa. artist earns cash, family vacations and a national award with his work

Patriot-News - 12/2/2019

An artist from Lancaster was given an award by one of the nation’s premier performing arts centers.

Malcolm Corley, a 20 year old artist from Lancaster, was selected for the annual Visual Art Exhibition for the Kennedy Center’s Arts and Disability Program.

Corley, who is autistic and has limited verbal ability, was chosen for an Award of Excellence by the center for his work “Untitled #1” made during an AP art class at Hempfield High School. Corley was one of the 12 artists chosen for this award by the Kennedy Center, which comes with a $2,000 prize.

“These young artists have delved into connections in their lives that resonate deeply with their work; it makes visible what is often overlooked and challenges us to see the world from a different point of view, and through their personal lens,” said Betty Siegel, Director of VSA and Accessibility at the Kennedy Center, via a press release. “We look forward to seeing the impact these 15 individuals and their work will have on invoking unity and inclusivity across the nation.”

When asked about his experience with the Kennedy Center’s award, Corley said that the event made him feel like a “great artist.” Regarding his $2,000 award, Corley had a simple response: “$3,000.”

“I will take that to mean he understands that it takes money to make money,” said Corley’s mother, Maria. “I am investing [his award] in his art career: supplies, ordering merchandise printed with his work for craft sales and bazaars, entry fees for art shows/craft fairs. Also, the money is available for him to do things he enjoys, such as going to dances.”

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Corley began his artistic pursuits with re-creating children’s characters from “Blues Clues” or the books of Dr. Seuss. By his teens, he was selling prints and tiles of his work online in order to fund a family vacation to a Dutch amusement park. Corley has also organized several of his own art shows and commissioned works.

Of the selected artists for this year’s Kennedy Center awards, Corley was the youngest to be recognized, and the only one with no post-secondary art training.

Corley’s mother explained that the symptoms of his autism will likely prevent him from holding a job, and that the Kennedy Center’s award - and accompanying development instructions and networking opportunities - have been a tremendous boon to the family’s future plans.

“The Kennedy Center experience and the follow-up afterward make me feel slightly less overwhelmed,” she said.

For more information and examples of Corley’s work or for opportunities to purchase items he has designed, click here to visit his website.

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(c)2019 The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.)

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