Local artist Jack Medved ...

Local artist Jack Medved poses with his painting entitled “Congo,” which he completed while working with professional artist Andrea Saint Claire at her Sorrento Valley studio. The colorful piece reflects the myriad connections in the natural world.

Jack Medved has spent 14 of his 22 years living in Coronado. Medved and his family—Mom Maria, Dad Marko, and younger sister Carly—moved here from southern Maryland when he was in third grade. As a toddler, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and though he started school at Village Elementary, he finished his remaining schooling at Pioneer Day School and Urban Skills Center in San Diego.

As a going away gift when he left Maryland, his aide at school gifted Medved a family membership to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, and the frequent trips that the family made to both attractions helped Medved develop his passion for all wildlife.

Medved is a voracious seeker of knowledge in the animal kingdom world, and is a vast wealth of information on the living creatures of our planet. On a recent visit to his home, where he resides with Mom and Dad, we had a lively discussion about sea turtles, the differences between Asian and African elephants, and several of the world’s big cat species. While I am no slouch when it comes to animal trivia, I realized that Medved’s knowledge far surpasses mine—who knew that Asian and African elephants have wildly different trunks, differently shaped heads, and that the ears of each resemble India and Africa? Not me! Look it up— it’s true!

At the onset of Medved’s ASD, he lost most of the dexterity in his hands, and until the age of 12, was only able to draw crude stick shapes and circles. Remarkably enough, with therapy, he was able to develop his small motor skills by practicing in a mirror. He learned that if he could see himself doing a task, it was like watching someone teaching him. This took time and wasn’t easy for him, but as he reminded me with a quote from Rafiki, the beloved and wise baboon from “The Lion King,” “It is easy after it is hard”.

What was hard for Medved eventually became part of the passion. Drawing the animals that he loves allows him to share his skills and knowledge with others. He currently volunteers at the Rolando College library, and has recently just set up, with the help of Maria Medved, an Instagram page called JacksAnimalFunFacts. Check it out—it’s there that you can learn which big cat uses a long dew claw to hook its prey, why a platypus lays eggs, and which avian species lactates!

While Jack Medved is busy learning about and drawing wildlife, Maria Medved works tirelessly as an advocate for him and other parents and children with disabilities. Inclusion is something she cares deeply about, and when acquaintance Andrea Moriarty, author of “Radical Inclusion, What I Learned About Risk, Humility and Kindness From My Son With Autism,” had the idea to pair emerging young artists with autism alongside local professional artists to create pieces with a community-based theme that could be shown in a traveling exhibition, Maria and Jack Medved put together a resume.

Jack Medved was accepted into the inaugural traveling exhibit, and Moriarty worked with two local arts foundations and several local galleries to procure studio and exhibit space.

He was paired with local abstract painter Amanda Saint Claire, and the two work together at her Sorrento Valley studio. Interestingly, Medved was initially a bit put off by Saint Claire’s abstract style, and while he’s skilled at drawing freehand, painting was a new approach. The pair works together, creating both collaborative and individual pieces that reflect and complement their interests and style.

At a recent visit to Revision Creative Workspace, off Hancock Street near Old Town, Medved showed me some of his individual and collaborative efforts. His piece “Harmony Ferry” reflects a large ferry boat loaded with both animals and wildlife—a sort of modern-day Noah’s ark, and an appropriate vision of inclusion, for, as Medved wisely notes, “we’re all in this together”.

Most of Medved’s paintings emphasize community and connection. His collaborative work with Saint Claire—a gorgeous, playful mixed-media piece featuring humpback whales—is based on the true story of Humphrey the Lost Whale. Humphrey found himself lost and confused in the San Francisco Bay and then in the Sacramento River, but with the joint efforts of marine scientists and the US Coast Guard, was rescued and reunited with his community.

If you would like to support Medved and other artists, please attend one of the upcoming Radical Inclusion exhibits. The kickoff exhibit is on Aug. 3, at Sophie’s gallery in Kensington, followed by a showing at Revision Gallery in October. Don’t forget to visit JacksAnimalFunFacts on Instagram!

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