The works of a 10-year-old boy with autism are featured alongside those of pioneering crypto artists from the Philippines and Singapore in a crypto art exhibition taking place this month. Sevi Agregado is the only child on the roster of artists which includes illustrator and crypto entrepreneur Luis Buenaventura, photographer, singer and visual artist Raymond Lauchengco, graphic designer and illustrator AJ Dimarucot and Cryptoart co-founder painter Ph Jopet Arias .
Sevi is showing four of his paintings at Galeria Paloma’s exhibition titled ‘1/1’ (read: one of one) to be held at the Power Plant Mall in Rockwell, Makati from September 30 to October 4, and online on the NFT Foundation art platform from September 23. The event is held in conjunction with the largest regional crypto art event, Crypto Art Week Asia.
Sevi’s growth in the art scene has been nothing short of remarkable. Since he started painting five years ago, his works have been featured in several on-site and online exhibitions. The boy had his first virtual exhibition at Art Fair Philippines last year. His NFTs were featured in physical galleries in Singapore and Chicago for Crypto Art Week Asia 2021 and were also exhibited in New York’s Times Square last June for NFT.NYC. Her talent has also caught the attention of Vogue Singapore and The Straits Times Singapore. Sevi, the country’s first and youngest known crypto artist, has sold many of his physical paintings, commissioned works, and NFTs on the metaverse.
“These virtual events have been truly amazing for Sevi’s growth as we never thought her art would reach the world,” says Sevi’s mother April, who still can’t believe the extent of the accomplishments. of his son. To say that eight years ago, she and her husband, Johncy, had no idea what the future held for their baby boy.
Sevi, the second of four children, was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old. “Doc, how come Sevi doesn’t talk so much yet?” April remembers asking the family pediatrician. During this examination, the doctor identified possible signs of developmental delay and recommended that they see a developmental pediatrician for further evaluation.
The Agregados heeded the doctor’s advice and initial results showed that Sevi suffered from a speech impediment. But after taking a full assessment, they discovered the boy’s condition was more than just developmental delay. “The doctor put a box of tissues next to me, which indicated the news wasn’t good,” April recalled.
In addition to having Global Developmental Delay or GDD (meaning he shows delays in multiple areas of development), Sevi is also diagnosed with autism (a developmental disorder affecting skills physical, social and linguistic).
“It was difficult for me and my husband at first,” April tells ANCX. Because she was on medication for gestational diabetes, all sorts of questions raced through her mind: “Did I do something to cause it? Is that something I took? Did I accidentally inhale something? Did I not take care of myself enough?
“There was a lot of guilt in the beginning,” she says. “There was sadness.”
But after discovering the state of health of their son, the Agregados wasted no time in carrying out the necessary interventions. At two years old, Sevi began going to therapy, and at five, they enrolled him in art classes offered at the therapy center. “We also signed him up for gymnastics and football and his teachers were actually very happy with his performance. But that was just the art that Sevi wanted to continue,” says April.
In our interview, Sevi tells us he loves art because “it’s fun” and “you can do anything”.
“In my opinion, art is something that a person with a neurodevelopmental disability can do without any expectation of the outcome. Unlike speaking or indeed any subject in school, there is an expected outcome or an expected response. With art, if you think about it, you can do whatever you want. And it’s your way of expressing yourself,” says April.
Sevi’s very first artwork was an image of a tree in a field. At that time, he was very fascinated with Angry Birds and insisted on putting a red angry bird on the painting. “You’re like, ‘ok, that’s cute,'” April recalled with a smile. But as the weeks passed, Johncy and April were pleasantly surprised by the changes in their son’s artwork. They thought, “Wow may potential siya.”
Normally, Sevi paints whatever interests him at any given time, be it a picture from a TV show he watched, a game on his gadget, a subject he liked in school. “Once he was very interested in this show on Netflix called ‘Grizzy and the Lemings’ and he wanted to paint a bear,” says April. “There was one time they were talking about smores in class and he wanted to do smores and paint smores.”
Sevi’s creative process begins with a simple idea, say, an animal. April will look for reference material and Sevi will make her own interpretation on the subject. “He’s done a lot of colorful pieces lately, and they’re usually set against a dark background,” observes April. Examples include the piece shown on the Times Square billboard which featured the image of a lion, and his works featured in the Galeria Paloma event this month.
Sevi says he enjoys painting all sorts of “anything and everything – sea creatures and non-living things”. During our interview, he tells us that he would like to paint a zebra. Her main medium is acrylic on canvas.
The young artist attends two-hour art therapy sessions once a week at a gallery in Kapitolyo, Pasig. As a rule, he is able to complete a piece in one session. But sometimes he does complicated pieces that take him about two or three sessions to finish. “If it’s a subject that he really likes, or is very interested in, he can do it in an hour and a half or less, Kasi hyperconcentrated siya-esays April.
Her teachers let Sevi do her job and provide guidance and reminders as needed. They would tell him, for example, not to wet the canvas too much or not to use too much paint. “The teachers at Sevi are very proud of him, kasi siya talaga ang gumagawa ng strokes. Ayaw ni Sevi n / A someone else is touching the canvas,” April shares. “After the teacher demonstrates one or two moves, sasabihin ni Sevi, ‘Okay, let me try.’ Unlike everyone else na kailangan pa hawakan ang hand, Yes No Sevi na hahawakan siya. He is very quick to do that.
Sevi’s teachers are happy that the Agregados introduced their son early in the arts. At the moment he is still working with reference materials, but they predict that the boy will soon be able to work from his own imagination. His creative development, they say, was remarkable.
But for April, it’s just a bonus that Sevi produced some beautiful art. The biggest benefit, she says, is that art has allowed Sevi to express herself and develop neurologically. “He receives instructions from someone who guides him and because of that he has to understand the instructions and translate them onto the canvas. If he has questions or clarifications, he must be able to express them to the instructor. So really, painting has enhanced him developmentally, in addition to art,” she says. “You really feel that through art, Sevi has improved his communication skills, his concentration. He is able to sit for two hours, it’s difficult even for ordinary people like us. Art has really catapulted His development.
April says having a younger brother has also helped Sevi a lot. Because he has GDD, he is two years behind developmentally, and so he and his seven-year-old sister, Lexi, practically grew and developed their skills and abilities at the same time.
With Sevi, it has been 10 colorful years for the Agregados. April admits that supporting a child with a disability has been quite difficult. “Even if Sevi wasn’t autistic, parenting on Twitter is tough — you know, sharing your child’s story, opening up your life to strangers,” she admits. “And as a curator and as a voice of the child, that’s a lot of responsibility, and also a lot of apprehension and anxiety on our part because you’re in a space where there’s so much established artists.”
At first, she admits they wanted to take a step back because there’s a financial aspect to Sevi being an artist. “Some say it’s scary for parents to share and sell their children’s work,” she says. But April says they only have their child’s best interests at heart. “Luckily, we didn’t need to touch the funds we were able to earn through the sale of his work. But we’re comfortable with knowledge na kung kailangan, there is this fund that we can use for him. Because he will need therapy for a very long time.
April says their biggest benefit from this trip is taking your doctor’s advice and being open to the possibilities of how art or any other activity can help your child. “If I hadn’t heeded the pediatrician’s advice to seek additional help, we wouldn’t have caught the diagnosis early and we wouldn’t have gotten the help Sevi needed,” she says. “I have heard stories of parents refusing to send the child to therapy. Then as they begin, mas matanda na ang child and already rooted in his habits, it is therefore more difficult to help him. Sayang ang time.”
April also advises parents to expose their children to different activities so that they can discover and develop their full potential. As for Sevi, he has a fairly simple advice to children who would like to become artists like him: “Just do it!”
Photos courtesy of April Agregado