Something just happened: professional development in an autistic art practice.

April 8, 2017 § 8 Comments

sonia-boue-rswt

Photograph of Sonia Bouè’s Refugee Stack, 2015 by stardaffs.com

SO, something happened. 

In collaboration with my trusted colleague Elena Thomas (artist, song-writer, performer and educator), I have asked Arts Council England to support me in creating a document to outline my needs in the workplace. They just said yes! This piece of paper (or more likely powerpoint, video, series of poems, and – oh yes a handy list!) will be my ramp into neurotypcial spaces as an autistic arts professional.

All workspaces are the wrong neurotype for me. All of them. No invisible ramps exist for invisible conditions that I know of. So we have to start talking up visibility and making change happen.

Alongside the challenges of my autistic difference in an often hostile world, I have co-morbid conditions which present me with further obstacles to access.  A restricted diet due to functional gut disorder, severe contact dermatitis, and Raynaud syndrome are on the daily menu. I must manage my energies and environments with the greatest of care, and commonly found canteen fare, air con and synthetically perfumed environments can act as enemy agents sending me into a spiral of ill health.

I need control over working conditions but as a freelance this is often a difficult and sometimes impossible challenge. My professional template will be designed to turn this around. A personal breakthrough in managing my conditions has been to gain a diagnosis of autism – at which I learnt that they come with the territory. They’re not autism per se but they come as an attachment and form part of the package.

What this does (in practice) is to bring this trio of troublemakers to heel. I click my fingers to round them up, and we become one. Autistic + co-morbids is the deal with me. I require detailed and specific accommodations in a complex and fast paced milieu – ie the arts!

But of course it is autism – and the myriad disadvantages faced in a neurotypical working context I hope to tackle head on. This is no add-on or postscript to my project. It is the core of my project. If I am to lead and create opportunity for others (my project brings employment among other benefits) then my team must come with me and I feel so lucky knowing that they will. Too long have autistics tagged along or even had their work exploited. Together we may just create a pioneering model.

I feel empowered and grateful – at last I have a way of gaining some leverage and intend to share my learning with other autistic artists who may also benefit.

So how did I get my funding – how did I make this opportunity happen?

  1. Teaming up with professional and trusted neurotypical allies has been key to this process.
  2. I have now spent two years of my professional life learning my way around the lower tier Arts Council England Grants for the Arts funding application process.
  3. Through the combined autistic skills of hyper focus and hyper connective thought I can create effective, coherent and strategic funding bids.

So in addition to my own work, I’m now in a position to offer a consultancy service. I can help to analyse and structure a proposal for a GFTA bid (currently at £15,000 and below, and in the near future for higher tier awards) for individual artists and small organisations.  My skills are not limited to autistic/ neurodivergent artists & organisations but this is a specialism.

My services can be hired at an hourly rate, and I can be contacted at soniaboue@yahoo.co.uk for more details.

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