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Creighton hosting whimsical art installation at Phoenix campus

Oct 20, 2023
2 min Read
Calvin Shin Art

Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix will host “Happy World: Whimsical Works by Calvin Shin,” an exhibition that showcases the artwork of a local artist with a unique perspective, until January 2024.
“Having this powerful installation with us at Creighton is such a joy because we get to celebrate Calvin while also witnessing in his work the truth that we all uniquely see and interpret the world around us,” said Nicole Piemonte, PhD, assistant dean and associate professor, Creighton University School of Medicine, Phoenix Campus. “This installation also reflects how the arts and humanities transcend the confines of language, expressing the lived experience of things like health, illness, loss and love with such richness. Medical descriptions and scientific language cannot fully capture what it means to be human, which is why we believe all Creighton students should engage with the arts and humanities on their journey to becoming a healer.”
Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 3½, Calvin Shin has found ways to creatively express himself through art. The path to being an artist was not easy. Shin’s diagnosis is profoundly life-affecting. But it does not prevent him from being happy.

Using his own unique mix of strengths, Shin depicts his inner world to viewers through incredibly detailed works of art. When first asked to hold a pencil, Shin did not know what to do with it, so he broke every pencil he could get his hands on. Dozens of pencils were broken and discarded over a period of several months as Shin learned to master holding a pencil properly.

Calvin Shin Artist
Calvin Shin works on his art.

Over time, Shin’s artistic skills blossomed and he found his own style. Art became an outlet that helped him to overcome some of the obstacles presented by his diagnosis. At first, his figures were only identifiable to Shin. He drew a lone figure over and over, sometimes hundreds of times, until it satisfied him and he could move on to the next figure.
“First Place AZ champions pride, purpose and possibilities for individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Tom Ortega, Mulzet Center for Expression director, First Place Global Leadership Institute. “Calvin’s optimistic and whimsical work expresses all of this.”
“We were very pleased to work with First Place Phoenix and Creighton University to host Calvin’s exhibition at the Creighton building in Park Central,” said Jon Stelzer, executive managing director of development, design and construction for Plaza Companies, the master developer of Park Central. “This is just a part of the commitment to the arts we’ve had since Day 1 and is shared by Creighton University.”
The public can visit Shin’s exhibit from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the Creighton University Health Sciences Campus – Phoenix. The exhibit will be on display until the end of January.
Shin’s exhibit is part of a rotating art exhibit that has also featured local nonprofit Kids in Focus and the COVID Memorial Quilt.
Every figure in Shin’s artwork is uniquely expressed and different. You may see similarities, but no two figures are exactly alike – just as no two individuals with autism spectrum disorder present exactly alike. But there is one characteristic that stands out in the figures’ expressions – happiness; Shin’s figures are happy, like him.
Shin is a keen observer of the world around him, and he pays close attention to detail. In addition to figures, he draws animals, food, transportation and specific locations. And he creates studies of attire, physical features and accessories. Look carefully at those studies and then try to find your favorite tie or hairstyle in Shin’s figurative work.
Ever-evolving, Shin’s art is part illustration/part animation, defying categorization. His preferred medium is colored pencil, though he also experiments with crayon. The vibrant colors and whimsical style in Shin’s work are his way of expressing to viewers the lens through which he sees the world. A graduate of the First Place Arizona Transition Academy, Shin’s skills continue to develop and his independence grows.

Learn more about Shin and his artwork on his website.