Lee Brooks: Expressing Himself Through Art

Lee Brooks, Artist East Haven residents will get a chance to meet this deaf, autistic artist through his works on display through October in the Hagaman Memorial Library-and in person, for those who visit the library during the show’s opening on Saturday, October 1, 2011.

Expressing himself through art is one thing Lee Brooks knows how to do best. Despite being born deaf and diagnosed with autism, the 49-year-old has displayed his breathtaking natural ability at bookstores, fairs, and most recently, his upcoming art show at the Hagaman Memorial Library.

Lee grew up in Meriden and is currently residing in Opportunity House. Both his parents have been very instrumental in his life with his artwork and other natural abilities. His father Jim and mother Jean, who serves on the Board of Directors at Opportunity House, can’t remember a time when Lee wasn’t interested in art.

“He’s always used drawing or some means of art as an expression. Even when he was very young, before he used crayons or pencils, he would take popsicle sticks and make all kinds of designs,” Jean said. “Even the school years when he learned to use pens, paper, and crayons, many of his drawings initially were caricatures, but then of course they became more refined as his ability became better. Actually, the basics he always had.”

As a child, Lee initially started his education at the American School for the Deaf, then due to his autism enrolled the public school system. While that school wasn’t meeting his needs, his parents decided to switch him to a program that would really help Lee blossom into the man he’s become today, BenHaven.

From there, Lee then moved into Opportunity House, Inc., and has lived there for the past 28 years. While attending just one formal art class at Gateway Community College, Lee’s natural ability has allowed him to be a self-taught artist. While living in Hamden, Lee has a private art teacher who helps refine his skill once every other week.

“Its amazing to watch him to do his work,” said Tamara Dumas, assistant director of Opportunity House Day Services who contacted Hagaman Library on behalf of Lee. “It just makes us happy to know he’s happy. To see him get excited about it is rewarding.”

Although this isn’t the first time the self-taught artist has had his work displayed in the public, it will be his first solo show. For Lee, it couldn’t make him any happier seeing his hard work appreciated.

“This is definitely a big thing for him because he’s never had something just for him. For something to be displayed that he could see for an entire month-it’s huge,” Tammy said.

Lee especially enjoys drawing and reading maps. His parents said he has an uncanny ability to remember directions and different routes to the places his family has traveled. He also has a knack for writing.

“He would do very intricate drawings of roads. He traveled over the Q Bridge at one point and that waterfront in the distance with the different towers, they were just a perfectly replicated. To this day we still have books at home that he has years ago drew the routes that we traveled,” Jean said.

Art isn’t Lee’s only talent. With a lovable humor and a keen interest in newspapers, he also has an incredible memory, according to family members and loved ones. Tammy said he is very self-sufficient as the home, being able to dress and cook for himself. He also works during the week delivering newspapers and helping out at local bookstores. Libraries are just one of his favorite places to be.

While Lee isn’t busy working on his latest masterpiece or helping out at his group home, he spends weekends with his parents and older brother Scott. Swimming is Lee’s favorite hobby. He especially enjoys winter cruises with his family and swimming at his parent’s pool.

Lee’s exhibit at the Hagaman kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 1. He and his parents will be at the library from 1 to 3 p.m. and his work will be displayed throughout the whole month. There, residents are able to purchase prints and note card replicas of his paintings and drawings; 10 percent of those proceeds will be donated to the library.

With his first solo show only a few days away, both parents said he is very excited.

“He was very pleased about it. We told him and he pulled out the map looking for East Haven,” his parents said.

Published 09/28/2011 By Kelly Smith for Shore Publishing

View and Order Cards and Prints of Lee’s Work




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