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Autism and Art: Man Opens Gallery in Halifax

Autism and Art: Man Opens Gallery in Halifax
Autism and Art: Man Opens Gallery in Halifax

Jay Merriott’s recent diagnosis of autism proved to be a turning point that reshaped his life.

“I was only diagnosed last year and I’m almost 40,” Merriott said. “I always knew there was something different and I felt like an alien.”

There were times when he felt out of place socially and he didn’t know why, he says. Interactions with others weren’t always easy. When he got the diagnosis, it was a shock. But he quickly turned around and decided to delve into what had always made him happy: his art.

Merriott created hundreds of paintings on canvas, using vibrant colors and abstract images.

“I call my art ‘trivialism,’ and the idea behind it is to reduce all these art styles into one bigger style that speaks to people,” Merriott said, adding that he wants people to hear about his experiences with autism and be curious about visiting the gallery.

Prints hang on the wall at the Von Winkle Art Gallery in Halifax. Gallery founder Jay Merriott calls his art style “trivialism.” (Paul Hollingsworth, CTV News)

Merriott opened the Von Winkle Art Gallery in Halifax. By producing and sharing his art, he was able to have meaningful interactions with complete strangers, something that had seemed impossible in earlier chapters of his life.

“Sometimes the best thing we can do as creators and artists is create a new memory for someone, and a really big goal for me is to bring joy and beauty,” Merriott said.

Merriott invited Halifax-based artists Greg and Maureen Fownes to share their digital art in the gallery. Their artwork is produced digitally, unlike Merriott’s, but not out of place in his gallery, the Fownes say.

“When I first saw this gallery, I was stopped and drawn in by the color, and his story held me,” said Maureen Fownes. “I really feel like the space captures what he wants to achieve.”

Prints and sculptures on display at the Von Winkle Art Gallery in Halifax (Paul Hollingsworth, CTV News)

Merriott’s new gallery opened last month. He has about 600 pieces on display, plus 100 pieces by other artists. He says he wants to use the space to strengthen positive connections with his community.

“I want to see a future where kids can say, ‘I want to be an artist and that’s a real job,’” Merriott said.

Merriott also wants to show the world what one man with autism can achieve.