Friday, March 21, 2014

The art of inclusion

COLORFUL CANVAS: Megargel at work

When Billy Megargel was searching for his voice, he found it in his paintings.

Diagnosed with autism at age 2, Megargel, now 24, has barely uttered a word throughout his entire life. Instead, he communicates through a voice output Toughbook personal computer and with an arsenal of tools including brushes, rollers and bubble wrap.

“Complex medical issues prevented Billy from attending school,” says his mother Eve Megargel.

Homebound due to chronic pain, Billy began to paint.

The family converted their garage into a studio where Megargel listens to opera, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll while painting with combustions of color and texture that his mother says evoke whatever mood he may be in on any given day. His talent has caught the attention of several area businesses and organizations, and he has had exhibits at Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Waltham, Lesley College, several Starbucks locations and, most recently, a display at the MGH where he is a patient.

“When I first saw Billy’s artwork, it was through a video that his mom Eve shared with our Pediatric Family Advisory Council,” says Debbie Burke, RN, MGH associate chief nurse. “I felt like displaying his art at the hospital was a way to give a voice to those with autism who may not be able to express themselves in other ways.”

On Feb. 25, five pieces of Megargel’s art were hung in the Center for Perioperative Care on Wang 3 and Lunder 3 and two more will be delivered to the hospital next week. His work also is on display at the Lurie Center for Autism at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children. 

“When I received the call from Debbie that we had someone who wanted to donate artwork, I had no idea it was a patient,” says Dawn Tenney, RN, associate chief nurse of Perioperative and GI Endoscopy Services. “We were overwhelmed by how good they were. The idea of Billy’s connection, the autism and wanting to donate was very powerful.”

Now when Megargel visits the Lurie Center, his mom says he walks right up to his art and smiles. “It is my belief that for all the pain Billy has had, art is a great solace,” says Eve Megargel. For a brief moment, he is truly present and whole. It is a joy to behold.”

For more information about Megargel’s art, visit

Read more articles from the 03/21/14 Hotline issue.

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