BHSU Student Ethan Engel Premieres “Transcendence: The Journey of Autisma�� at Matthews Opera House


Ethan Engel is, in his words, a social butterfly — but that wasn’t always the case.

Engel has a form of autism that affects his ability to process information and communicate properly. Engel, who is studying graphic design and art at BHSU, said he took charge of his disability and hopes to inform and inspire people all around the country with his mixed-media art exhibit “Transcendence: The Journey of Autism” that premiered at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish, S.D. Feb. 6.

Last July, Engel was one of 15 artists selected by the VSA Emerging Young Artist program to have his work published. The program was created to encourage students with disabilities to pursue careers in the arts. His piece, “Overcast” won the Award of Excellence and was featured at the Dillon Ripley Center, part of the Smithsonian, in Washington, D.C. “Overcast” will travel around the United States for one year.

Overcast is Engel’s most personal piece.

“”Overcasta�� has the words from my mother’s reflection about how she gets upset that people are still judging or treating me in a bad way. She posted this story on Facebook last year, and when I read it I thought it could possibly relate me very well. It’s funny how I keep telling my mother that those are her words that she posted on Facebook, and she still doesn’t remember,” said Engel.

At an opening reception for his art exhibit, Engel gave a brief speech about what it’s like to have autism. Engle said that was the reason the pieces were created, and also why they were displayed in reverse. Looking at the piece straight-on gives the audience a twist on how to interpret what’s being said. Engel said this was to show the audience what he goes through with his disability.

Engel said art has changed his perspective on having autism.

“It’s incredible! I felt like autism has certain “gifts” that other people don’t recognize at all,” Engel said.

He said he creates different worlds in his mind that help him in his creative process. Engel said he has “created his own autistic language” that can be seen within his individual bodies of art.

Ethan Engels art exhibit, “Transcendence: The Journey of Autism,” will be displayed at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish, S.D. Feb. 6 — 28.