Art Against the Odds

Jack Marren has overcome many obstacles all in pursuit of his dreams of being an artist.


Kylie Emery

Jack Marren ’22 poses for a photo next to his piece that won the t-shirt design contest at the art show at Mainframe Studios on Sep. 6. Underneath the artwork is a statement that he wrote about why he loves this type of art.

Kylie Emery, Online Editor

Jack Marren ’22 has three words that will forever be important to him. “I always have and always will live by the words dream, dare and do because I always have and always will live by dreaming, daring myself to dream, and chasing down my dreams,” he said. 

Although many people may relate as far as trying to live their lives this way, Jack Marren takes these words to a whole new level. Jack Marren has overcome many challenges in his life, including having a brain tumor and autism, all in pursuit of his dreams of being an artist. 

After having a stroke when he was 3 years old, Jack Marren lost his left peripheral vision and became very weak on the left side of his body. This stroke lead to the diagnosis of his brain tumor and since then, he has had to have many different procedures. “A couple of [the procedures] have been to remove tumors,” his sister Lauren Marren ’21 said. “He’s had multiple treatments to remove tumors. He’s also had surgeries to fix his hips and knees because with the stroke it made his left side weaker.”

Jack Marren’s stroke and recurring brain tumor has lead to other side effects as well. “He’s very sensitive to heat, and he has to drink a lot of water because his body processes it faster than anyone else’s,” Lauren Marren said.

In addition to his brain tumor, Jack Marren was also diagnosed with autism when he was around 3 years old. Autism affects everyone differently, but in Jack Marren’s case, it alters the way he acts in social situations. “He has trouble picking up on jokes and he doesn’t really understand sarcasm,” Lauren Marren said.  “It’s hard for him to hear people he likes say jokes and then have no idea what they’re talking about. I think it frustrates him.”

Autism has other effects on Jack Marren as well. “He is more sensitive to sound and he doesn’t cope with things the same,” Lauren Marren said. “The part of his brain that copes with things like traumatic events and people being mean and all that isn’t fully developed. It’s a lot harder for him to let things go. He’s more picky with everything. He has to have everything a certain way.”

Despite these challenges, Jack Marren remains positive, and one way that he reflects that is through his art. He has always had a passion for art, and has been doing it for his whole life. “I don’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t do art,” he said.

When Jack Marren was in eighth grade, he had a cyst behind his optic nerve. While seeking treatment in Texas, he created and submitted a piece of artwork to the MD Anderson Children’s Art Project. His artwork ended up being chosen for their spring line. “They put it on all sorts of products like travel coffee tumblers, notepads, iPhone 6 cases, and they paid me $200 for letting them use my artwork,” Jack Marren said.

Since then, Jack Marren has had more of his art featured in many different shows, such as the 2019 Blanden Arts Festival, a show at the Scottish Rite Retirement Center, and at Mainframe Studios.

Jack Marren enjoys art because it allows him to be spontaneous and creative. “Art allows me to express myself and go beyond my imagination in what I create,” he said. “When I start a piece, I can’t even imagine how it’s going to turn out. I like that I can just go with it and see what happens.”

He loves art so much that he hopes to make a career out of it one day. “I do see myself doing art for the rest of my life,” he said. “People tell me all the time how hard it is to do that, but I hope to prove them wrong and be successful in it.”

Jack Marren believes that he would not be where he is today without his family’s support. “My family, especially my mom, are both my biggest fans and my biggest critics, but in a good way,” he said. “No matter what I do, I know they’ll always back me up. It makes me want to never stop and to keep pushing myself to try new designs, patterns, and kinds of art.”

Lauren Marren loves to see how happy and proud her brother is of his art. “Every time someone comes over to our house, the first thing that he shows is his artwork,” she said. “Whenever we go to someone’s house, he brings a bag of art to show other people. Art makes him walk around the kitchen with a smile on his face and a thumbs up. He’s extremely proud of his art and I’m so glad that he’s found something in his life that brings him that much joy and gives him a purpose.”

Jack Marren urges people to follow their dreams, despite what anyone says or any setbacks that they could face. “If you have a dream, go out there and chase it down,” he said. “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. All my life, I’ve had people tell me what I can do and what I can’t do, and I don’t listen to any of that. When I’ve been told that I can’t do something, I’ve blocked it out and done it anyway, and everyone else should do that too.”