Soren Fielland has a passion for drawing. In the close to seven years he has been practicing his art, Soren has created thousands of drawings, an impressive feat for any child and even more impressive for a non-verbal, legally blind 12-year-old with autism.
Soren, who attends Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, celebrated his 13th birthday a little bit ahead of schedule on Sunday with a public showing of over 100 pieces of his own original art at the Breezeway Yoga Studio on Kingston Pike. Drawings covered the studio’s walls while friends, family members and visitors admired the massive portfolio of work that Soren created.
Shannon Fielland, Soren’s mother, explained that drawing has become a way for Soren to communicate with those around him and that his subjects have a way of working themselves into his limited vocabulary.
“It helps us to know what’s on his mind, and then it also gives him something that he’s motivated to talk about,” Fielland said.
Soren frequently uses fairy tales and nursery rhymes in his drawings, Fielland said, as those stories have helped him communicate things that might otherwise have been challenging for him to share. She recounted a story in which Soren used a line from a common fairy tale to warn her about a hot cup of tea.
“It’s opening up the door for language, so we can sometimes speak in fairy tale,” she said. “I made him some tea the other day, and, ‘This porridge is too hot,’ from (Goldilocks and) the Three Bears came in, so we use that to bridge some of the communication gap.”
Soren’s passion for art found an altruistic purpose on Sunday as close to 150 of his original drawings were put on offer during the celebratory show with a portion of the proceeds going to support the AfterStars afterschool program at West Park Baptist Church, which helps students with special needs explore their creative potential. Jill Summers, who works for the AfterStars program, explained that the program tries to provide a structure that allows students facing different challenges to grow and explore their interests in their own ways.
“Most of the time we try to embrace what the children like, what their interests are, and his interests are obviously art, so we make sure to have an environment that’s set up for him daily, so that when he comes in he’s happy,” Summers said.
Hope Dunn, who also works with AfterStars, explained her joy in seeing Soren’s art become a vessel for supporting a program that he has thrived in.
“It’s just as fulfilling for us as the families,” Dunn said. “We’re building community, and that’s something that they didn’t really have an opportunity to do before.”
For Fielland, the support that her son has enjoyed and the passion he brings to drawing offer a lesson on confidence and the creative spirit for everyone.
“We’re all so very lucky to know this little guy,” she said. “He teaches all of us as much as anybody can possibly teach anyone. He tells us a lot about what it is to just be unabashedly yourself and encourages everyone to be just a little bit more creative.”