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The story of Devin

Da Vinci Fest is a chance for students to explore their academic strengths and pursue their passions, and for the Stillwater area community to come together to celebrate their talents.

Several years ago, Devin Wildes was a high school senior who entered a painting in the Da Vinci Fest Art Fair. At that time, Devin's autism was so severe that he could not actually converse with the judges. We allowed him to be judged solely on his written statement, and Devin got first place in his category.

One of Devin's judges, a local artist whose paintings sell for thousands of dollars, said that he felt privileged to be one of Devin's judges. He said that Devin's piece did exactly what art is supposed to do, but often doesn't: evoke a visceral, emotional response. Devin's piece was a bug's eye view of a picnic, with disembodied hands swatting the bugs away. Devin's artist statement said that he often felt like those bugs.

Heartwarming, to be sure. But here's the best part of the story. A month ago, we received the following email from Devin’s mother.

“When my son was at the Stillwater High School, the Da Vinci Fest was one of the few activities he could participate in (and excel in) and it changed his life forever.

 He is now 23, and a flourishing artist. He produces art every day at Interact in St Paul and is an artist in the WINGS program for ArtForce which places his artwork in large corporations.  He is a national speaker on his art where he has spoken in front of a live audience (as many as 600 people). PBS’s MN Original produced a segment on him and it just won an EMMY!  Thought I would share the video and the progress Devin has made.  It speaks to the importance of these programs and I wanted to let you know that what you do makes a difference.”

Read more about Da Vinci Fest, and join us on Saturday, Jan. 5 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Watch a short video of Devin’s journey, “Turning Autism into Artistry.”