Known as the World’s Largest Music Festival, Summerfest is a highly anticipated event looked forward to by many. Racking in about 800,000 attendees each year, the festival’s lineup includes artists from all genres. It’s 2019 event will star big artists such as Jennifer Lopez, Billie Eilish, and Lionel Ritchie. While retaining its reputation as one of the most awaited music festivals, Summerfest is making strides in becoming more inclusive and accepting of all, starting with those in its local community.
For the first time, Summerfest has partnered with Islands of Brilliance, a Milwaukee-based organization that provides STEM and art workshops for students on the autism spectrum to foster independence, grow their communication skills, and explore their own creativity. Designs created by Danielle Lamar and another student in the organization, were chosen to be part of Summerfest’s official merchandise collection.
Lamar’s design features a character named Gracie, one she has developed over the years and deeply resonates with. Gracie is a teenager with autism who “eventually sort of overcomes her creative autism”, according to Lamar. She told CBS58, “Gracie started off as a self-insert character, but now I sort of see her as the younger version of myself”. Through her development of Gracie and involvement in art programs, it is apparent that Lamar has grown and prospered in the face of opposition and obstacles.
When Mark Fairbanks, the Executive Director of Islands of Brilliance, told Lamar that her design has been chosen, she was completely shocked. “In our mission as an organization to show the capabilities of individuals on the autism spectrum, it’s perfectly aligned with that. So to see this all come to fruition is exciting,” said Fairbanks to CBS58.
This opportunity that Summerfest has provided has shown students like Lamar, that there are no limitations on what they can do with their ambitions and passions, and has additionally spread awareness. As Fairbanks told CBS58, “To give Danielle the opportunity to work on a real-world project and to actually see that produced, shows them that their talents can earn them a living at some point.”