Grant Maniér is many things: a talented artist, passionate advocate, creative illustrator, poised public speaker, dedicated student and great friend.
He also lives with autism.
“I have autism, but I do not let it define me,” Maniér said. “I define my autism through my talents and my skills.”
Maniér is 26 and a first-year student in Moraine Park’s Graphic Communications program.
In 2021, he moved to Fond du Lac from Houston, TX, after accepting a job at the Treffert Center as a behavioral treatment technician and enrolling at Moraine Park. He and his mom, Julie Coy, were eager to take on this new adventure.
“Through Covid, the art world was shut down,” Maniér said. “I used to travel the country raising awareness, acceptance and promoting inclusion for people with disabilities. I would meet hundreds of people at events and take pictures with my art. After that stopped, we got an exciting opportunity to move, and we took it.”
Unlike traditional artists, Maniér constructs ecological, environmentally friendly art as an ‘eco-artist’.
“An eco-artist is not a normal artist,” Maniér said. “Being an eco-artist is taking recycled materials like paper from magazines, discarded puzzles, old calendars and wallpaper, and turning them into something beautiful. If it is recyclable, I can create eco-art out of it.”
Eco-friendly projects can also be made using materials such as old metal or scrap wood. Maniér gets his materials through direct donations, at thrift stores, and garage sales. Some of his pieces include an owl made from old movie posters, a dragon made with contact lens cases, dolphins made from applesauce lids and a giraffe made with jigsaw pieces named Jigsaw Grant.
Jigsaw Grant started out as one of Maniér’s many animal projects, but for this piece he decided to do something different. Instead of regular giraffe spots, he made the spots look like jigsaw pieces. His mom loved it so much that she coined it, Jigsaw Grant, after her son.
When people asked about Jigsaw Grant and Maniér’s other art pieces, Coy made-up stories about who the characters were and where they came from. Eventually, she started writing them down, and that is how Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe children’s book series was born.
There are five books in the collection, with more coming soon. Some of the topics include dyslexia, the autism spectrum, childhood cancer and the pandemic.
“I have come to know a lot of people and make many friends who have different challenges or disabilities,” Maniér said. “We figured if we talked about them in a children’s book format, we could help teach people from an early age about disabilities and how they can support people with differences.”
When it comes to sharing the work of writing and illustrating the books, Maniér describes it as an 80-20 percent split. His mom is the author, and he is the illustrator, but they both have their own opinions and give each other feedback as they create.
Maniér and Coy hope to publish more books and eventually bring their characters to life through animation.
When asked about his mantra, “’Autism does not define me, I define autism,’” Maniér said, “It’s basically asking the question: how do I live with it? It is something I cannot change. It is like having black hair. I don’t know what it is like to not have black hair, so I maintain it and keep it healthy, which is a lot like how I view my autism.”
Read more stories like Grant’s in our Spring 2022 NEXT Magazine.