'Eco-artist' with autism raises over $250k for special needs causes

Growing up with autism, Grant Maniér started tearing paper as a way to ease his anxieties. Over the years, he started turning his paper scraps into works of art so detailed, they started selling for thousands of dollars at fundraising galas.

"Because I have autism, I get anxieties. Working on my art, working with paper, it helps soothe those anxieties. It's like a form of meditation", he said. "All my materials, I find them everywhere. People even hand us some of their recyclable materials that they don't want to use anymore, like magazines or puzzles."

The 23-year-old first started gaining notoriety as an artist when he was a teenager, after he won Grand Champion Awards two years in a row in the Austin Rodeo's Eco-Art competition.

"After that, teachers took note of some of the art I've made and asked if I could teach some of their students how to recycle and create Eco-Art," said Grant.

Since then, Grant has traveled the state, visiting schools and teaching children how to create Eco-Art.

"He enjoys it because he knows it's therapy and he's going to teach a form of therapy that he knows a lot of our kids need," said Grant's mother, Julie Coy-Maniér.

Grant's efforts have earned him the Houston Mayor's Student Volunteer Award as well as recognition from the Texas Senate. One piece of art was chosen to hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year. Another was bought by several lawmakers, including Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

Grant hopes his artwork will not only inspire others, but create positive change in the community as well. He has used more than $250,000 in proceeds from his artwork to benefit special needs camps, scholarships for students and therapy classes, among other charitable causes.

"Whatever will help the community, were going to help raise the money," said Julie Coy-Maniér. "It just feels good to give back and help others."

Grant's latest venture is a children's book series, illustrated by him and written by his mother. Their first book, Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe: Different is More, is meant to inspire children who are different or disabled and help them recognize their unique talents. The book has received recognition from the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation and the Texas Governor's Committee for Disabilities.

"It's not what you can't do, it's what you can do that makes a difference," said Grant.

To see Grant's online art gallery, click here.
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