By Joshua M. Freedman
Special to The Sentinel
Various original works by artist Dane Capo are currently on display at ArcLight Cinemas Bethesda in the Westfield Montgomery Mall. The paintings will be on view until Sept. 14, every day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Capo is a 24-year-old painter from California. While his paintings may be impressive on their own, at the age of just 10 months old, Capo was diagnosed with epilepsy. Nearly four years later, at age 5, Capo also was diagnosed with autism.
While this may have held others back, Capo pursued his talents despite his disabilities and has his own company, People with Potential.
Capo may seem quiet, and his answers may be concise, but his art is a passion passed down by his grandmother, who was also a skilled artist.
“The person who inspired me to do painting was my mom’s mom, who died years ago,” Capo said.
However, Capo did not know how talented his artistic skills were until deciding to paint his take on French artist Henri Matisse’s self-portrait. Had he not tried to complete that painting, his talent may never have been discovered, Capo said.
That one painting blossomed into a career of selling artwork to people from many areas. While Capo sells his artwork online, he has also personally sold work to American investor and financial executive Charles Schwab, former Beatles performer Ringo Starr and numerous other collectors around the world.
An interesting aspect of Capo’s work is that he paints the people he sells his work to.
“I like painting founders of companies and logos of companies,” Capo said; “I think about meeting the people I am painting, and if I know them I think about how they will feel when they see my painting of them.”
One example, Capo recalled, was seeing Schwab’s reaction to the painting of himself.
“He loved it, and his wife bought it for him,” Capo said.
Harnessing his talent has also opened many doors for Capo. Besides meeting celebrities and captains of industry, he has also been fortunate enough to travel across the nation to attend various art shows and have speaking engagements. Currently, Capo has a movie being produced about his life.
While Capo receives support from people in all walks of life, perhaps no one has been more supportive of him than his mother, Krista Capo.
Krista Capo homeschooled Dane starting in the fifth grade and spent countless nights making sure he was safe in case he was to have a seizure while asleep. Today, she works with Dane to help organize events, speak with the media and sell his artwork.
“We are working hard to grow our business and reach a broader audience about People with Potential,” Krista Capo said. “Dane’s art has been a wonderful avenue in which to do that. Not all people with autism end up working at Google or some tech company. Not all people with autism belong in group homes or institutions. We are raising the bar about the gray area and the population that has incredible skills but are often overlooked.
They both work together to help the world better understand the struggles individuals with special needs face, and how everyone can play a role in helping them. While trying to help others, Krista Capo sees Dane trying to be independent at times when trying to talk, apply for jobs or working together with agencies to find more work. Any help provided to someone or her son the assistance to achieve is important, Kirsta Capo said.
“Dane’s goal in life is to have a job with a pension and his own health plan,” she said. “Until we change the conversation to what people with autism can do instead of what they can’t, he will never get his dream. As his mother, I want him to reach his dream and his fullest potential. I created the art business to help him do that. When the day comes that he is able to live off his art, I will have reached success.”
Capo’s art is on display in the ArcLight Cinemas on 7101 Democracy Boulevard, Bethesda. As Krista Capo put it concerning her son’s exhibit, “You will not be disappointed. His art on its own is incredible, but once you get involved in his story, it is extraordinary!”