Personal Story

Feature Issue on Careers in The Arts for People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities

My Arts Career: AJ Kiel

A young, Black man wearing a graphic t-shirt and several bracelets sits, looking at the camera and smiling widely.

AJ Kiel, recognized as a VSA Emerging Young Artist by the Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program, lives with autism. He aspires to be a full-time artist, often collaborates with a mentor and is represented by Access Gallery

I make art that is kind of like my life, which is often energized and chaotic, rarely linear, and never still. I convey my life through my art, my memories, my experiences, and ultimately my dreams. I love the idea of movement and systems, and have a passion for trains, trucks, and busses. I live and create in an urban environment and consider myself an urban explorer. Traffic lights, trucks, buildings, and busy streets all appear in my art, alongside robots and ramen. I see the world as connected through all of these things that move - the systems, cargo, people, packages, trains, trucks, and buses, and all of these interests influence my work. (As told to Damon McLeese, Access Gallery).  

Detail of a work features a busy cartoon drawing of bees, a flying man, cupcakes, and other creatures.

Colorado by AJ Kiel.

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Damon McLeese Runs VSA Colorado and Access Gallery | Damon McLeese, who worked with AJ Kiel to develop his artist statement, shares more about Access Gallery in this video.