By Amanda Foust
It’s not hard to find beautiful art in a city like Carmel, but for one resident it has become a way of life.
Jacob Stoesz, 23, has been using art as a means of communication to help overcome challenges he faces with autism. He’s been entering work into city contests as long as he’d been eligible, and he won first place in a contest celebrating the opening of the Palladium.
This year, his work has been featured in the Santa House in downtown Carmel. Stephanie Marshall, event planner for the Arts District, called on Jacob to create a portrait of Santa’s dog for the house.
“Jacob is … a wonderful artist,” Marshall said. “We decided Santa would have a Great Pyrenees.”
Jacob is esteemed by many in the community for his artistic abilities, but his biggest supporter is his mother, Jennifer Stoesz.
“Jacob was nonverbal when he was young but extremely visual and creative, so art served as a bridge for communication,” she said.
She created cartoon textbooks and visual outlines to help him learn in his early years. There weren’t many resources for families facing the challenges of autism at that time.
“For parents with autistic children, it can be a very devastating diagnosis,” Jennifer said. “It affects the whole family and takes a lot of effort to parent that child.”
Jacob graduated from Carmel High School in 2011 and is now studying art at Anderson University.
“I have enjoyed watching Jacob blossom,” Jennifer said.
She still supports her son by driving him to school every day and waiting for him to finish his classes before taking him home. Jacob hopes to one day lead local art classes.
“The fact that these children have so many gifts is encouraging,” Jennifer said, “It has been a rewarding journey seeing Jacob touch so many lives with his art and his hard work.”