Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center features young artist with Asperger’s

 Emily Burke with her drawings. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

Emily Burke with her drawings. (Greta Iverson/for NewsWorks)

Emily Burke, 11, has been an artist since she could pick up a drawing utensil and last month, her art was featured every weekend at the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center.

The show, named Art on the Spectrum, features artists diagnosed on different levels of the Asperger’s/Autism scale, MRAC Board Member Mike Muir said.

In first grade, Emily was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and now participates in several programs specifically designed to accommodate children with similar conditions.

“She has made leaps and bounds since her diagnosis,” her mother Lauren Burke said. “People with Asperger’s tend to be really good at things.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

And while Burke’s parents notes she prefers to draw animals – especially dragons – she has a very macabre side to her art.

“I’ve always seen some conflict her drawings,” Emily’s father Pat Burke said. “She has cats fighting and wolf fights.”

Emily’s depictions of cats and dogs cover the walls of the MRAC, but as one sifts through prints for sale, more pieces depicting death and bloodstart to appear.

Pat attributes some of her darker work with an infatuation with zombies, but Emily doesn’t see it that way. 

She said she naturally started drawing it and that she likes dragons. 

“Something she’s told me [is] she drew something she saw in a dream,” Pat said. “Just the other day she showed me a drawing and said it was a ‘dream dog.'”

While Emily’s art has been co-featured at other shows, the work at MRAC was her first independent showing. Her work took up the majority of the space and was advertised as the main spectacle on MRAC’s website.

A percentage of the show’s proceeds have been donated to the Plymouth Meeting Community Program, a soccer club that meets off-season when TOPSoccer, a national soccer club for children with special needs, does not hold practices and games.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal