Young duo put talents on display to boost research

Hinsdale friends Abby Sun and Maya Ural first bonded through painting.

"Our first play date was about art," Abby recounted.

Now they are inviting others on a date to invest in their works and a good cause by hosting the Art for Autism art fair from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16 at The Community House (see Page 19 for details).

The rising fifth-graders at The Lane School saw an opportunity to put their skills to philanthropic use when they learned of the condition's prevalence among their generation.

"It used to be one out of 100 children (diagnosed). It's getting more severe now, to the point where it's one out of 36 children," Maya reported.

The duo has been busy since the chool year's end creating pieces for the sale, aiming for 40 paintings and a fundraising goal of $1,000.

"Just knowing how special these kids are, we wanted to donate some money to Autism Speaks," Maya said.

"We just wanted to do a project that is helpful to the community," Abby remarked.

They revealed a sample of the striking compositions visitors can expect. Maya presented her vibrant image inspired by the online game Brawl Stars. Abby showed off her captivating portrait of Japanese animated character Totoro, which she said already has stirred presale interest.

"I do have a friend's parent that saw it and said she wanted to buy it," Abby related.

Maya appreciates the personal expression that putting brush to paper affords.

"I love art because there are just so many different colors you can use to make your project unique," Maya said.

The idea for the art sale began to take shape last winter. Encouragement from The Lane Principal Brandon Todd and support from the D181 Foundation helped elevate it from concept to reality. Donated space from The Community House was the finishing stroke.

Maya and Abby's moms, Zeynep and Jin, respectively, took them to Acquisitions of Fine Art in Hinsdale earlier this year to learn the proper protocol for hanging and labeling art.

"We're also making handmade bookmarks so people can contribute more to Autism Speaks," Abby said.

While neither indicated a desire to pursue art as a career, they both enjoy the process of nurturing fresh concepts and took a program in entrepreneurship at the College of DuPage this summer.

"We each made a business idea and presented it. Then the teacher gives fake money to use to grow it," Abby shared, describing the tracking device for lost items she proposed.

"You scan around and (the device) will either highlight it or tell you the directions to find it," she said.

Maya does most of her painting in her bedroom, "unless my mom is downstairs cooking something and I kind of want to chat."

They like to hop on FaceTime to socialize while working. Abby said making art requires patience and perseverance.

"Some things look super good, but they're super hard so you don't know if you can make it," she said.

They hope to make Art for Autism a success - but not too big.

"Then we'll have the pressure to make more art," Abby quipped.

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff