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THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Many challenges overwhelm today’s youth, ranging from choice of career path to struggling through Algebra 2, but for some students these challenges can be greater. Grant Manier (Maun-yay) is a 17-year-old boy who has autism, a disability that causes both communication and social barriers. However, Grant chose to turn this disability into a talent, becoming what he calls an Eco-Impressionist.
“Grant is one of the only known artists who peels and layers puzzle pieces to collage onto his artwork,” said Grant’s mother, Julie Manier. “All of his artwork is 100% recyclable.”
Not only does Grant use puzzle pieces to create his art, he also uses other recyclable materials such as old magazines, beads and wrapping paper. Grant’s latest piece “Caribbean Owl” was created from 65 posters of “The Pirates of the Caribbean”.
Grant always loved art as a kid, and he also had a love for paper. “One day I had painter’s block and couldn’t finish a piece,” Grant said. “My mom told me that I didn’t have to use paint, so I started collaging with shredded paper.”
Using his collage art as an outlet, Grant's pieces soon developed into more than just a hobby, becoming a business. Since 2011 Grant has won various awards for his work including The Congressional Art Competition for the 8th District of Texas, Grand Champion in the Eco-Art Division at the 2011 and 2012 Austin Rodeo and New Emerging Artist at the 2013 Houston's Bayou City Art Festival.
“I didn’t tell Grant to become an artist for a business, he just took to it,” Julie said. “It’s a wonderful talent and I’m comforted to know Grant has this skill to carry him through in life.”
Grant’s artwork is not just a business for the Manier family, it has also become a philanthropic venture. Grant has become a Keynote Speaker at autism rallies and gives live demonstrations of how to create an eco-art piece at local schools. “Grant’s art is not about the money,” Julie said. “It is about inspiring people to become responsible with the environment and to inspire kids and adults with special needs to become self advocates.” Through Grant’s art and his dedication to helping those in his community he has raised over $35,000 for Autism organizations by selling his one of a kind masterpieces at galas and various public events.
In addition to Grant's roles as an artist and a philanthropist, he is also a high school student. Grant attends Focus Academy three days a week and on the other two days he works on his art and attends miscellaneous events. “I am so thankful to Focus Houston,” Julie said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
Grant's positive attitude with everything from his art to his school work inspires those around him daily. He does not dwell on the negative and looks at the world with different eyes. “I think autism is my gift," Grant said. “After all it isn’t about what I can’t do, it is about what I can do.”