Anderson School District Five celebrates talented student for Autism Awareness Month

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ANDERSON, SC (WSPA)–In honor of Autism Awareness Month in April, T.L. Hanna High School shined a light on a student whose talent is captivating the community.

When senior Gerald Koester enters any art room at the high school, his pencil immediately hits the canvas.

“Such a joy to have this young man in class and I had no idea until I handed him a picture one day how adept he was at drawing,” said Kathy Moore, Visual Arts Instructor at T.L. Hanna High School.

Koester has autism, but his teachers believe the gift he carries through his hands, is pure uniqueness.  

“He’s a translator. He sees and he visually translates and what comes out is his hand. And it’s different,” said Johnny Nutt, Art Teacher at T.L. Hanna High School. “When I watch him make artwork, he is highly skilled with the mechanics. He’s looking and seeing and translating, but at the same time, I rarely see him making creative choices. He sees and interprets in a way that frankly, I wish more of my art students would be willing to tap in to. But they’re much too concerned with what other people think about what they’re doing to let go out of that and just do their thing. Which is why it’s such a treat to work with Gerald,” he said.

They said he communicates through art. Koester typically only glances at his subjects a few times before his brain goes into a creative space.

“It is absolutely a natural born talent. To be honest, I didn’t teach him anything.  It’s a matter of him sitting down and giving him an image to work with, which he really doesn’t look at the image,” Moore said.

Koester’s passion was on display at the Anderson Arts Center for Autism Awareness last month. The exhibit was called, “Through the Eyes of Gerald,” Moore said. Teachers said many people in the community have been inspired by Koester’s talent and have purchased his work.

“It’s all about the creative process, it’s not about the product,” Nutt said.

“I’ve learned a whole other layer of the creative process and a whole other context of art making, that is completely outside of how I work as an artist and both as a teacher.”

Some believe his special gift, abilities, and life are an inspiration.

“I was just basically blown away by his joy and just his love for anyone and everyone and that’s very contagious,” said Hallie Price, Self-Contained Special Education Teacher at T.L. Hanna High School.

A reason some of his teachers said he should be celebrated, honored, and admired.

“I don’t know, what he doesn’t really say with his mind, he’s really able to say with his eyes and his hands, in a way that most of us can’t do and even those who can, they won’t,” Nutt said.

The “Through the Eyes of Gerald” exhibit was on display at the Anderson Arts Center through April 30, 2021. Moore said his work is still being sold.

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