#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things and should be featured, let me know: BigThings@LucyKalantari.com.
Meet Keri Bowers: artist, autism & disabilities advocate, and a powerhouse of a woman. She's also my husband's aunt.
Keri can make art out of anything she finds, with details so fine you'll keep discovering little hidden treasures each time you look at it. She's also very loud and headstrong when it comes to standing up for the rights of a child, so their needs and voices can be heard. Her work with families of autistic children has helped educate and guide them through their journey with greater ease.
Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?
A. In a sense, intention is my intention; a conscious effort to find gratitude, purpose and meaning in what I was given in this life. I've worked in autism/disabilities advocacy, film, writing, art and single-parenting an autistic son, Taylor, and his brother, Jace for over half my life. When Taylor was born, how could I know that autism and advocacy would become the primary hallmark of my life's heart and work? Reckless in my youth, Taylor was the muse who taught me life had to take one of two courses; one of spirituality, connectivity and re-inventing dreams; or the other of sadness, guilt, fear and wanton waste.
Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?
A. Over the years, I've worked with thousands of children and adults with autism and other disabilities–from advocacy, to legislation activism, creating programs, theatrical productions, speaking engagements and 4 films. 6 years ago, I co-founded an international non-profit collaborative, The Art of Autism. Today, we represent hundreds of artists, bloggers, poets, musicians, animators and other creatives in our collaborative, providing spaces and places to showcase their works.
Recently, with an "intentional" investment in creation (despite the fear of pulling it off), we provided our first live stream all-autistic panel / forum where our panel talked about autism from first-person perspectives. An outstanding success, this two-hour panel is now the starting point for many more person-first productions that will stream on demand for free all around the world. And now, in order to manifest these productions, we need to raise money to support this. The Art of Autism's next phase is global outreach.
Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?
A. I have two types of barriers: macro and micro. The macro barrier deals with the difficult state of the world: war, bad politics & injustices, the planet's health, etc. As an empath, these cause me more angst than a broken heart. Like many, I'm fragile in my own way. It's an on-going struggle that ebbs and flows.
The micro barriers, are the daily things: autism / family issues, my physical health, funding projects, etc. I try to overcome these with daily conscious gratitude and a reminder to keep perspective on what I DO have. This has helped guide my principles, values and actions over the years. I've made a life of grace, beauty and optimism out of what, without specific intention, would have been a very different story. I am proud of the many accomplishments I've made over my career, and especially inspired by my sons, who are now adults making their own contributions in the world with focused intention.
Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.
“Today I shall behave as if this day will be remembered” –Dr. Seuss
Keri, thank you for everything you do! I can only begin to imagine the amount of gratitude so many families feel for the work you've done.
For more information on Keri's work, you can visit the-art-of-autism.com and normalfilms.com.