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Local Artist With Autism Gets International Attention

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities artist is selling original works for thousands of dollars, and he’s only been painting for a few years. But no one is sure of how long his artistic abilities will last.

Jimmy Reagan, 20, has regressive onset autism. In the past six years, he has developed a flair for abstract art that’s been showcased as far away as Germany, while drawing the attention of wealthy buyers.

“He loves Picasso, he loves artists that have color,” said his mother, Peg Reagan. “But he’s interested in all art.”

Several of Reagan’s paintings are on display at Sunfish Cellars Wine & Spirits in Mendota Heights. Many are listed at $4,000, but four others have sold for $7,500.

They’re bold expressions from a young man who otherwise struggles to communicate.

Reagan underwent dramatic changes starting when he was about two years old. He was a cheerful child with good eye contact, but he soon became sick and withdrawn.

In his early teens, he could no longer function in school. But it was private tutors who discovered and nurtured his interest in art.

“It’s his way of telling us what he sees,” she said. “And it’s a world full of lots of color, and people get a lot of joy out of looking at the artwork.”

He’s been featured at Expo Chicago, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and an art gallery in Berlin.

“We have always seen him as a very smart human being,” Reagan said. “And it means a lot to us that other people now see what we’ve seen in him.”

He now pays his own way for tutors and art supplies with the money he makes, but there’s no way of telling how long he will continue painting; it could all end tomorrow.

Only a small percentage of his artwork goes up for sale, but his mother said he’s sold about 100 works in the past few years. The Reagans have also donated several pieces that have sold for thousands at auction.

Click here to see Reagan’s work on his website.

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