MHAF Featured Artist | Aaron Bercovich: Building a Small Business Through Brick Art
Aaron is a young entrepreneur based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada who happens to have autism. His passion is building Lego sets and art pieces and, with the help of his family and friends, has molded his passion into a small business.
Launched in January 2015, Brick Art by Aaron started by creating art pieces of his family and friends out of Lego from a provided photo. These were generally given as gifts for special events in the recipient’s life, but once word spread of Aaron’s unique talents, his list of orders grew. Pretty soon, Aaron was under the watchful eye of the national media, gaining attention from CTV, CBC, Global, and many others who were just as enamoured with his gift as his family was. National media brought corporate attention, which resulted in pieces commissioned for companies like Goodwill, Austism Speaks, and even a massive skyscape of his home town, Edmonton, Alberta, created for the Economic Development Committee.
Aaron’s business showcases his talent for organizing, following patterns, and being precise. His business is his outlet to a normal life; A life that consists of a healthy balance of responsibilities, work, independence, and leisure. You can get a taste of what a typical day is like for Aaron by visiting his Instagram @brickartbyaaron and you can stay up-to-date with what Aaron is working on by visiting his Facebook at www.facebook.com/brickartbyaaron. If you would like to see more of Aaron’s work, visit his website at www.brickartbyaaron.com or contact [email protected] to have your own brick mosaic created today.
Watch the video below to learn more about Aaron and his work, and continue reading for an interview with his mother, Marilyn.
A Conversation with Aaron’s Mom, Marilyn Bercovich
Aaron has accomplished a great deal for any 22-year-old but still faces tough challenges in regards to obtaining “typical” employment. Aaron’s family and support team have nurtured his interests and abilities every step of the way, which has proven crucial in ensuring his entrepreneurial success. Continue reading to learn more about Aaron, his work, and preparing for the complexities of adulthood from his mother, Marilyn Bercovich.
MHAF: How would you describe Aaron? What is he like?
MB: Aaron is a warm, funny, and quiet young man and gives amazing hugs – which I, his mother, am grateful for. His hugs are one of the ways we communicate when he isn’t able to use his words. Aaron does speak but finds making conversations difficult and is always working on expanding his verbal skills. He does, however, understand everything. Aaron has read since he was just three years old and still loves to read at his favorite Chapters store, often gathering a crowd of young children to listen to him read Dr. Seuss. During the school year, Aaron goes to a pre-school once a week to read to the children.
Aaron has loved everything Disney and Pixar as far back as I can remember. He watches his Blu-ray movies usually in Spanish with English sub-titles rewinding his favorite spots. Eventually he memorizes the entire dialogue and can often act out parts of the movie with amazing likeness to voice inflections. Aaron is quite a happy young man and enjoys having his routines and knowing what’s coming next. To help with this, Aaron uses an app on his iPad (Visual Planner) that gives him his daily schedule when with support staff. Aaron works out five days a week at his local YMCA and swims once a week at a Para Swim program at the University. Aaron has numerous cousins who all love him and will be his circle of family in the future.
MHAF: What inspired the idea to use bricks in his works? Was he always fond of Legos?
Aaron finished high school in 2013 and spent the next year hanging out with Mom mostly. In May 2014, we were able to build a team to support Aaron and began to develop a person-centered plan for Aaron. In the process, at one of the meetings, our consultant asked what the two Lego portraits hanging in our house were all about. I explained that Aaron made them – he thought that was really “cool,” and the idea for Aaron to create a small business began. We knew that Aaron was not going to go apply for a job, get through an interview, and be hired very easily by an employer. My husband and I wanted Aaron to have a life like everyone else – a job, responsibilities, leisure time, etc. Aaron began to work with Lego at around 12 years of age, and we used it initially as a way to help expand his verbal skills and specifically to teach him how to ask for help. Aaron loves following directions and the orderliness of the Lego instruction booklets.
Aaron has been commissioned by various businesses to do brick designs of their company logos.
One of Aaron’s brick logo designs
MHAF: How does Aaron’s autism help with his artistry?
MB: Aaron has great patience when working on a piece of art and this along with his ability to not be bored by routine steps helps him to create amazing works of art. He never seems bored when working and is so proud when he finishes a piece (which can take from 6-8 hours each). Aaron will, when possible, deliver the finished piece and the “oohs” and “ahhs” from the recipients can be seen in a huge smile on his face.
MHAF: Does Aaron’s autism present any challenges?
MB: With respect to his art, Aaron’s autism probably is more of a help in that he can focus very intently on a project. It also gives him time to be himself without the hard work it takes for him to be in “our” world. Another challenge for Aaron’s art is the business end of it – promoting his art and managing his everyday needs requires a team of supports to get Aaron’s work out there. With respect to everyday life, there are numerous challenges facing Aaron and our family, and we always face each challenge head-on with lots of support from family, friends and professionals to ensure that Aaron’s needs and his ability to continue to learn and grow as an individual are first and foremost in our minds.
According to Marilyn, “The portrait and company logos allow Aaron to relax and get immersed in the exactness of building a portrait – following a pattern and then seeing the end result of a beautiful piece of Art. When you look up close at one of his pieces, it looks just like hundreds of little 1.25 inch squares, but step back a few feet and an image appears.”
Portrait of a young boy
MHAF: What do you wish the world knew about autism?
MB: Quite often people tell me, “Oh, you are doing a great job with Aaron.” Aaron is not a job – he is our son and a human being who just thinks and communicates in a different way from most people and has lots to offer to our world. We have been lucky in that society is much more educated now about autism and special needs in general, which makes Aaron’s life more complete. Recognizing that some people need to do things differently and that that’s “OK” is what everyone needs to see.
MHAF: What is Aaron’s greatest accomplishment?
MB: Aaron has accomplished more than most of what was laid out for us when he was first diagnosed. His constant learning is an amazing feat in itself – learning everything and being a part of the “regular” world takes huge amounts of effort and patience on Aaron’s part. However, I think his greatest accomplishment is the impact he had and has on the people around him and what he teaches them about being tolerant, patient, and understanding. Aaron went to a very small elementary/middle school in a classroom of 12- 13 students. These young children began together in pre-school up until the end of Grade 9. This group of children (now adults) became known in our community for their compassion, kindness, and acceptance of all, and I think having had Aaron a part of their daily lives helped develop this in them.
MHAF: Finally, what is your greatest wish for Aaron’s future?
MB: Like most parents, we wish for Aaron to have a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life. Aaron’s challenges mean this will take a lot of people being involved in his life, and we hope that when we are gone there will be others – family and supports that will be there to let him know that he is loved, safe, and not isolated or lonely. Aaron has no siblings but a large extended family, so we know we can rely on them and others to help Aaron in his journey.
Aaron not only constructs portraits of people and logos, he also creates adorable pet portraits and beautiful cityscapes.