Elton John World News: A View From The 22nd Row

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Blind Teen Has Been Asked to Paint For EJAF

Monday 22 September 2008 @ 16:06 - GMT


First, Jeff Hanson got to meet Elton.

Now, the Kansas City Star reports, the Overland Park teenager is fulfilling the performers request for artwork to brighten the lives of AIDS patients in South Africa.

Jeff was born with neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes tumours to grow on nerve tissue. In some cases, the condition can be as harmless as spots on the skin. In Jeff, a low-grade malignant tumor developed on his optic nerve.

Chemotherapy and radiation have kept the tumor the size of a pea, but the 14-year-old, who has learning disabilities, is legally blind.

But he also is an artist who uses his work to give back to charities.

At the beginning of the 2005-06 school year, Jeff took a required art class as a sixth-grader at Overland Trail Middle School.

He loved it and could feel a lot of success in it, said Amy Price, his art teacher at that time. With any student, you work at what they can be successful at. I wanted to challenge him and get him outside his comfort level.

The following summer, Jeff started painting abstract note cards. He sold more than 5,000 of the hand-painted cards, many from the driveway of his home.

His art is done in colours he can distinguish bright and bold.

He has small holes in his vision, observed his father, Hal Hanson. For example, if Jeff looks at the word the, he might see only he. If he shifts his head, he might see t.

Jeff now is a student at the Kansas State School for the Blind in Kansas City, Kan. His art business has grown into commissioned requests for the note cards to be transferred onto canvases priced from $100 to $1,000.

The Hansons unfinished basement is his studio. The teen paints daily for at least an hour. His parents help by bringing him paints and cleaning tools, and sometimes by giving direction on the proportions of colour to match the work from the original note cards.

Jeffs favourite tools are a miniature paint roller and a large putty knife. He works in acrylics, which dry more quickly than oil. He and his dad create a three-dimensional look by weaving strips of fabric through slits in the canvas. Jeff then paints the knotted fabric.

Jeff always gives back a bit of what he earns. The sale of his cards, along with some of his mothers baked goods, raised more than $15,000 for the Childrens Tumor Foundation. His work has been put into a 2009 calendar, with all proceeds going to 12 charities that have touched Jeffs life.

One night last week, Jeff began working on his largest canvas to date, a 4-foot by 5-foot painting to be donated to an auction gala for Angel Flight Central in November.

Then there was Jeffs first encounter with Elton.

The October meeting at the opening of the Sprint Center fulfilled Jeffs two-year wait for his request to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. At the meeting, Jeff surprised the music-maker with a $1,000 check from the proceeds of his art sales to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

They struck up a friendship, said Scott Campbell, executive director of the foundation in New York.

Since then, Jeff and his parents have flown as Eltons guests to concerts in the United Arab Emirates and in Las Vegas. On the Vegas trip in June, Jeff gave his favourite painting to Elton. Its called A View from the 22nd Row, after a line in Candle in the Wind.The canvas is covered with large blocks of blue, silver, orange, pink, purple and yellow.

This is how Jeff sees Elton on stage, Hal Hanson said. He sees the lights.

And, in Las Vegas, the songwriter asked the boy a favour: Would he create artwork that could be placed in the AIDS foundations cluster homes in South Africa?

In these homes, said Jeffs mom, Julie, pregnant HIV-positive women receive medicine so their children will be born HIV-free.

He told Jeff, I need you to brighten these homes. Would you paint 12 canvases?  Mrs. Hanson recalled.

Campbell said he wasnt sure when Jeffs art would head to South Africa. But through Sunday, the work can be viewed at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Ave. in Leawood.

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