ARTIST SNAPSHOT Meet D.J. Svoboda By Sharon Fuentes While presenting at a recent special needs conference, I had the great pleasure of meeting D.J. Svoboda. The moment I heard his booming deep voice say, “Welcome to my Imagiville, where everyone is welcome and accepted for who they are,” followed by “Have a great and amazing and awesome day … every day,” I was smitten with this gentleman. Then I saw the huge smile behind the voice and his vibrant colorful drawings and immediately became a fan! D.J.’s story is unfortunately not all that uncommon. Growing up, D.J., who was diagnosed with autism as well as a slew of other diagnoses at the age of 3, was teased, bullied and called names by his classmates who often didn’t understand his challenges or differences. But D.J. took all those negative experiences and created Imagiville, a safe place in his imagination where everyone is treated kindly. “Each Imagifriend that I draw is different. They come in many sizes, colors, and designs. None of them are ever mean or cruel. They each have their own special job and purpose in Imagiville. Every Imagifriend knows that as long as they have a kind heart, it does not matter what they look like,” D.J. says like a proud father speaking of his own children. From Mupperezmo, a dragon-like creation who turns his head upside-down to see the world from a different point of view, to “The Shy Guy,” who is so shy he wears a lampshade on his head, D.J.’s friends jump off the page, spreading a message of hope and inspiration and serve as a reminder that those with special needs are perfect just the way they are. 46 Zoom Autism Through Many Lenses D.J.’s artwork has been featured in numerous publications and hangs in museums and on the walls of corporations, organizations and private homes. D.J. is the author and illustrator of three books that star his beloved Imagifriends. You can even commission D.J. to do a special mural or an Imaginame where he will create an Imagifriend out of the letters of your name. D.J. is also a dynamic motivational public speaker, traveling around the United States, sharing his artwork, his stories, his optimism and his anti-bullying message with all. And if all of that was not enough, D.J. dreams of bringing his Imagiville world to life one day via a TV show and Story app. We have no doubt that it will happen too! To learn more about D.J. Svoboda, the Imagifriends and Imagiville, go to www.myimagiville.com.