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Jacob Burns to Screen 'Breaking Boundaries' Tonight

The art of an autistic man is highlighted in the film and in the theater's gallery.

Pleasantville's  (JBFC) is showcasing a short documentary about a self-taught artist who excels in the use of color and unconventional media tonight.

Breaking Boundaries: The Art of Alex Masket is a 17-minute film that will be screened at 7:15 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with Masket's mother Elaine and Richard P. Swierat, Arc of Westchester's executive director. Consultant Dr. Beth Mount will moderate the discussion.

What is unique about the subject is he is severely disabled.

The event is presented through an Arc of Westchester and Pleasantville Special Education Parent Teacher Association (SEPTA) partnership. A reception will follow in the JBFC Jane Peck Gallery, where Masket's work is displayed.

Masket, 24, a New Rochelle resident currently living in a group home in Peekskill, will appear at an exhibition of some of his works after the screening, said Elaine Masket.

In a phone interview, Elaine, an autism advocate, said autism manifests itself in a wide range of behaviors.

"For Alex, it's mostly communication difficulties," she said.

Until his latent artistic talent was discovered and nurtured, Masket said she was "busy trying to mold him into our world."

She said he was always doing artistic things at a young age, taking, for example, Chinese checkers pegs or Legos and laying them out in a complicated color combination.

The solution, it was discovered, was "making sure he had materials that suited what he wanted to do," Masket said. "I stopped worrying about him coloring within the lines in the coloring book."

While Alex Masket is unable to communicate verbally, Elaine Masket said he is communicating through his art.

"The art work is his mind through his hands," she said.

Richard Swierat, executive director of WestchesterArc, which sponsors the group home in which Alex Masket is currently living, said the emphasis now is focusing on the importance of recognizing the talents of people with disabilities.

"These are artists who happen to have a disability," he said. "They have something to communicate that is unique and different."

Swierat said too much time is spent characterizing the disability by limitations, rather than looking at the individual's strengths and potential contributions to the community.

"These are people," he said. "They need to be given the same kind of opportunity to tell us what their interests are, what their skills are."

Swierat said Hhe is hoping people will take one thing away from the screening and the discussion.

"Take a look at the person as an artist," Swierat said. "That individual is doing the same thing as any other great artist."

Elaine Masket said, in dealing with the art world on her son's behalf, she sees people who only see the artist, only see the disability or see a combination of both.

"Alex has had shows where people didn't know he had autism," she said. "Normally, I try to put the art totally forward.

"A lot of it is learning to accept who is in front of you," Masket said.

She said she cannot imagine Alex without the autism now, and she won't tolerate anyone's pity.

"He has the best life," Masket said. "He is the happiest person I've ever met. Materials are given to him and he is happy.

"I got over it along time ago," she said.

Tickets to the screening are $6 for JBFC members and $11 for nonmembers.

Alex Masket's work, as well as the documentary, can be seen on his website.

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