Zoie Abrams is a 15-year-old West Bloomfield resident who has drawn attention with her artwork.

Zoie Abrams is a 15-year-old West Bloomfield resident who has drawn attention with her artwork.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

West Bloomfield teen draws attention with her artwork

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 12, 2021

 West Bloomfield resident and artist Zoie Abrams is pictured with her mom, Simone. Zoie said it makes her feel happy when people like her artwork.

West Bloomfield resident and artist Zoie Abrams is pictured with her mom, Simone. Zoie said it makes her feel happy when people like her artwork.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WEST BLOOMFIELD — More than 15 years ago, West Bloomfield resident Simone Abrams was pregnant with her first child.

At the time of her pregnancy, Simone was over 35 years old, and in such cases, it is not uncommon for women to be offered an amniocentesis, which is performed to determine if a fetus has certain genetic disorders or a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down syndrome.

It is an optional test, and Simone said, “I opted not to because this was my first, and I looked at it as probably my last. It didn’t matter.”

Simone gave birth to her first and only child, Zoie, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth.

Simone said Zoie’s arrival meant, “I got my baby.”

“I love motherhood,” Simone said. “I wanted a child. I didn’t ask whether they had two eyes, two arms, two legs or whatever; this is my daughter. … There was nothing that people could tell us that she couldn’t do.”

As it turns out, Zoie can do a lot. After attending West Bloomfield Middle School, she is set to be a freshman at West Bloomfield High School later this year.

Zoie is also involved with dance and swimming.

Since she was about 4 years old, Zoie has also had an interest in creating art.

“I love painting,” she said. “It’s very colorful.”

Despite Zoie’s involvement with art since she was a young child, it wasn’t until the last two years or so that Simone said an “aha moment” came as to how much having that creative outlet means to her.

“We didn’t know at the time when she was doing art that it was a self-expression,” Simone said. “We just saw it as, ‘This is what she loves to do,’ but when everyone sees this art, they say they feel happy, and that’s her.”

The look of her artwork can go a long way toward letting people know who Zoie is.

“What really captures the essence of her is the painting with the colors — the vibrancy of the colors, the movement of the colors — that’s what really captures the essence of Zoie,” Simone said. “If you ever met her in person, you would feel the same thing.”

West Bloomfield Township Clerk Debbie Binder lives in close proximity to Zoie.

About three or four months ago, Simone had Zoie’s artwork outside, and Binder took notice.

“I loved it,” she said. “I loved the vibrancy, I loved the creativity; I liked her colors. It spoke beautifully to me.”

Aside from her ability as an artist, Binder thinks Zoie’s artwork can help inspire other children with Down syndrome and their parents to pursue projects they may not have previously considered.

“As an artist, her talent is clear,” Binder said. “As an inspiration, the sky is the limit. … I think she will encourage and enlighten other parents and kids who are facing any kind of challenge to pursue opportunities that they may not have thought of. So I think her inspiration knows no bounds.”

From the perspective of Zoie’s dad, Sam Abrams, some of the attention Zoie’s artwork has received is “opening her eyes to a much larger world.”

He was asked what he would like to have come from Zoie’s artwork.

“That other people who see it enjoy it just as much as she does, from the standpoint of understanding the artist that created it, and I think, (the) love that Zoie put into it,” Sam said. “She’s 15 years old and does not really understand the magnitude of how great many people think her artwork is.”

Having a child who has a bright outlook can help make life a lot sweeter for Zoie’s mom.

“I am overjoyed,” Simone said. “Raising a child with different abilities — we call it different abilities — is challenging. … If I have a bad day, she can feel it. She can tell, and she’ll come in, give me a big hug, and say, ‘Mom, be happy.’ She keeps that light on.”

As for how she feels when people like her art, Zoie said, “Happy.”

Simone said Zoie is full of life, and “she encourages so many others to do the same — enjoy life.”

She discussed what Zoie’s ability to create art, as well as her accomplishments in dance and swimming, have helped do for her.

“Her confidence is off the charts,” Simone said. “She doesn’t look at herself, and she shouldn’t, as having Down syndrome, with not being able to. … That’s not even in her vocabulary or in her thought process, that she can’t.”

According to Simone, Zoie was communicating through art even before doing so via speech, which “emerged” when she was about 7 or 8 years old.

She said Zoie is in special education and probably at a second or third grade level, academically.

However, her challenges haven’t stopped Zoie from thinking big.

“She aspires to go to college,” Simone said. “She says, ‘Mom, I’m going to college.’ … Then she told dad, ‘When I turn 16, I want a car.’”

As far as having a child who was born with Down syndrome, Simone said, “Things are just as they should be.”

“No regrets, no remorse, no change in anything, because she’s brought out things in people, things in me, things in dad. … I never knew I could love so,” Simone said.

Those who would like to view Zoie’s artistic accomplishments can visit zoiesart21.com.

For local support, visit the Down Syndrome Guild of Southeast Michigan’s website at dsgsemi.org.