DFN PROJECT SEARCH SHARES THE STORY OF MULTI-TALENTED ARTIST MARCUS MASON-WILLIAMS
DFN Project SEARCH is proud to share Marcus’ story. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he set up his own business, CoolArt2021, to showcase his artwork, which is influenced by his autism and his passion for wildlife and nature.
The charity showed its support for Marcus’ business, partnering to produce cards using a ‘not all superheros wear capes….’ design gifted to DFN Project SEARCH by artist, Rebecca Osborne, in association with East Coast College and James Paget University Hospital.
Marcus says “I have autism and am proud of it”. His inspiring attitude has seen him break boundaries and disrupt the perceived expectation of those within the neurodiverse community, not just with CoolArt2021, but also through his involvement with Special Olympics GB and his creativity as a performer.
An Alpine Skiing Champion
Marcus, was never a fan of sports at school, however, 13 years ago, with the help of his father and a family friend, he took up skiing and has never looked back. He joined the West Midlands Special Olympics Ski Group and has since competed at several Special Olympics Alpine Skiing competitions in Europe. The most recent was in February 2020 at the Special Olympics GB National Alpine Championships in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, where he won gold and silver medals for slalom skiing.
Marcus expresses his love for the sport and says that “being part of a team, winning medals and performing with other athletes,” is what he loves most about Special Olympics GB, which focuses on ability, not disability. Marcus says “competing for Special Olympics GB has allowed me to manage my autism, improve my performance and develop new skills."
Embracing his Creativity
As well as being a successful skier, Marcus is a talented artist and singer. In spite of facing significant personal challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic, he has taken his passion for art one step further by setting up his own business, CoolArt2021. Marcus is the creative talent, with his parents providing the administrative and technical backup. To launch CoolArt2021 Marcus used hand drawing and digital techniques to design a range of colourful and imaginative animal themed greeting cards to suit all occasions. His love for wildlife shines through in his designs.
Marcus has taken inspiration from famous writers, illustrators and, one of his personal heroes, David Attenborough. “I started drawing when I was about five. Henry Rousseau’s animal paintings, especially Tiger in a Tropical Storm, inspired me to learn to draw animals. I am now learning to use digital software with the help of Gary Twine at 575 Studios and Exceptional Minds (Los Angeles, USA),” explains Marcus. Gary’s expert web design and build skills have also enabled Marcus to launch his own CoolArt2021 website. Starting CoolArt2021, a disability confident certified business, is helping Marcus use his creativity to build his confidence and self-belief.
Talking about his other artistic passions, Marcus says that he has “enjoyed performing since school days”. At College he took the lead role in Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Since then his performances have focussed more on singing with the Birmingham Rock School, of which he is a proud member. “My music interest comes from Bryan Adams and Elton John. In normal times I take singing lessons and perform three to four concerts a year with the Rock School . I have also performed in Autism Got Talent in 2018 and in the Awareness of Autism concert in 2017. I am hoping to perform in a future Autism Got Talent Concert when lockdown ends.
“For me music is a way to see the bright side of life. I am planning to set up a band called Bright Light, with some friends who also have autism and a passion for music. I composed my first song on the keyboard called “Warrior”, which shows the positive side of having autism and encourages people to make the most of their talents.”
When asked how he’d advise others in the neurodiverse community thinking of starting their own business, Marcus says “be yourself” and “he who dares wins.”
He continues by saying “I have had my share of ups and downs but I believe in keeping going no matter how tough. I have a lot to contribute and want to be the best I can be. Art and performing sets me free and art, my stories and my performances help me to communicate. I connect with others especially the young and the old.”
Marcus and his parents are aiming to use their connections with disability groups and partnerships to spread the word, raise awareness and attract people to CoolArt2021. Marcus was delighted to have the opportunity to design and supply cards for DFN Project SEARCH and would love to do similar work with other organisations, which share DFN Project SEARCH’s values. Marcus was very touched that Claire Cookson remembered him from when he showcased his talents at a National Grid Employability Conference in .
“Marcus has a wonderful and inspiring story to tell about not limiting yourself and it shows that we should never underestimate anyone with learning disabilities or autism,” explains DFN Project SEARCH CEO, Claire Cookson who recently partnered with Marcus to create cards using a design gifted to the charity that promotes the work programme interns have been doing on the frontline throughout the pandemic.
“DFN Project SEARCH is incredibly proud to be able to support his business venture. When we were kindly gifted Rebecca Osbourne’s design, I knew we wanted to do something to share it with our stakeholders and to celebrate the work our interns have been doing. However, I also knew that I wanted to do this in a way that also promoted the work of someone within the neurodiverse community and Marcus was an obvious choice for this.”
“We are very keen to continue to support social enterprises run by people who have a lived experience of neurodiversity and have really enjoyed this partnership with CoolArt. We’d like to wish Marcus our continued support for his business and the launch of his new website.”
Links to Marcus’ performances with Birmingham Rock School: