It Takes a Village: Community Support Paves Way for Boise Man's First Art Show 

Tucked away in a third-floor corner of Boise's Gem Center for the Arts is a small, sunlit gallery that can be rented out for private showings. There, 19-year-old Drew Stuebner held the opening of his first solo exhibition Tuesday, June 26, after completing a summer drawing course at Boise State University.

"This is his latest series with his private art teacher, Kelley Cooper," Drew's father, Steve, said as he walked through the gallery, gesturing to a row of brightly colored acrylic paintings featuring exotic animals in unusual places: relining in a canoe, perched on the roof of a train or sprawled on the pillowy top of a cloud. "Kelly came up with the idea of putting [the animals] in a kind of more incongruent setting."

A solo exhibition by age 19 would be remarkable for any artist, but is even more so for Drew, who is on the autism spectrum. Steve credits the guidance of a host of local teachers and mentors—as well as a natural, enthusiastic talent—for Drew's success. On opening night, the gallery filled with supporters, including Drew's first private art teacher, Marilyn Cosho, who began working with him at age 10.

click to enlarge Drew Stuebner (right) with his private art teacher, Kelley Cooper, at the exhibition opening. - STEVE STUEBNER
  • Steve Stuebner
  • Drew Stuebner (right) with his private art teacher, Kelley Cooper, at the exhibition opening.

"Part of my message is just that really it takes a village in terms of a kid like Drew, to grow his talents, and we've just been so fortunate to have worked with all of those people," Steve said, listing off the names of those who'd attended the debut, including public school art instructors, local artists and a favorite special-ed teacher. "It's just so cool from my perspective to have all of these people come and see how Drew has grown his talent."

Most of the watercolor and acrylic paintings covering the gallery walls feature animals like zebras, lions and giraffes, but others, which Drew himself was quick to point out, are prints of whimsical digital drawings starring cartoon and comic book characters.

"You might recognize one of the characters—Patrick from Spongebob, and [here's] The Tigger Movie, there's Eeyore. Piglet, Roo, and Pooh," said Drew, grinning as he pointed from drawing to drawing.

A few of Drew's paintings already sold at the exhibition opening, two for more than $300, but his entire body of work will be on display to the public through Saturday, July 7.

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