Exceptional Minds Nonprofit Digital Arts Academy for Young Adults with Autism Breaks Ground on New Facility, Outgrowing Expectations Once Again

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Non-profit Exceptional Minds digital arts vocational school for young adults on the autism spectrum is raising funds for a new high-tech facility, with sponsorship opportunities still open for title rights to a new working studio that will bring independent contract work to its graduates.

Exceptional Minds vocational school for young adults on the autism spectrum

We all have a stake in this. There are far too many under-challenged young adults with autism living in their parents’ basements, playing video games.

Not long ago, a few pioneers in the autism community dared to ask the obvious. If it takes a village to raise a child, what will it take to prepare young adults on the autism spectrum for meaningful careers in movie post-production, animation and computer graphics?

Their answer: Exceptional Minds digital arts vocational school, which opened its doors in 2011 with a customized curriculum intended to draw on the technical strengths of, and address the high unemployment associated with, individuals with autism. Since then, the majority of first- and second-year Exceptional Minds students have earned professional accreditation in at least one Adobe graphics program and have worked on a number of contract assignments, including title work for major motion picture Lawless.

Now, not quite two years later, Exceptional Minds digital arts academy is outgrowing expectations yet again. Exceptional Minds “broke ground” on new digs at 13400 Riverside Drive in Sherman Oaks last week, marking the start of an ambitious, three-phase expansion that begins with larger classrooms and a new working studio that will operate separate from the school.

Fundraising for the expansion started in late 2012 and, according to Exceptional Minds co-founder and Director of Operations Yudi Bennett, “Support just keeps materializing, like everything else about Exceptional Minds.” Sponsors from the autism community, the movie industry and elsewhere have stepped forward to make the expansion possible, including Autism Speaks, Newman’s Own Foundation, Adobe Systems, DreamWorks Animation and many other organizations and individuals, the majority directly affected by autism.

“We all have a stake in this. There are far too many under-challenged young adults with autism living in their parents’ basements, playing video games. We need the Exceptional Minds of the world to make that essential connection between skills and jobs, especially now that there are a million young people with autism about to enter adulthood in the next ten years,” commented Los Angeles Pitching Coordinator Jim Gott, whose son, Danny, joined the Exceptional Minds team to pursue a meaningful career in computer animation.

The new 3,700 square-foot facility, to be completed by July 2013, more than doubles the school’s current capacity with three new classrooms, each with workstations for ten students, a blue-screen room for Chroma keying, a theatrical lighting and staging room, a personal project studio plus web-design room, and a sorely needed working studio for Exceptional Minds graduates to begin contract work for companies and movie studios.

Initially, the working studio will occupy 500 square feet in the new facility and operate independent of the school year-round. The studio will be staffed with professionals in the post-production field to help graduates with paid independent contract work such as 3D film conversion (rotoscoping), visual effects clean-up and other graphics and animation post-production or design work.

To achieve this undertaking, Exceptional Minds is seeking the help of community partners with a sincere desire to help. The school has received an initial $500,000 investment in its students’ future and, in addition to overall facility donations, hopes to identify a $100,000 donor to help equip the new working studio with the latest digital arts technology.

The nonprofit is offering corporate sponsorship opportunities including naming rights for the new studio, presence on the Exceptional Minds website and in all PR materials, plus visibility at all Exceptional Minds events, workshops and conferences, and most importantly, the satisfaction of helping young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) successfully transition into adulthood with the skills needed to achieve their full potential. For more information on how to become a corporate sponsor, please contact info(at)exceptionalmindsstudio(dot)org.

Exceptional Minds digital arts academy for young adults on the autism spectrum is a 501(c) (3) charitable organization.

About Exceptional Minds (http://www.exceptionalmindsstudio.org):

Exceptional Minds is a non-profit vocational center and working production studio for young adults on the autism spectrum. Chartered in 2011 to provide the training necessary for visually-gifted individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who may not otherwise be able to make the transition from high school to the working world, Exceptional Minds offers technical proficiency and work readiness skills that prepare students for careers in graphic arts, animation, web design, visual effects and rotoscoping. Located in Sherman Oaks, California, Exceptional Minds is both an instructional learning facility and a working studio with hands-on student involvement in production projects, many for the film industry.

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