To You From Super Me is an exhibition designed to reveal the extraordinary in the overlooked, to celebrate the ‘superheroes’ hidden within.
To You From Super Me is a result of a collaboration between Friction Arts & Sandwell Youth Services (SEND). For over 2 years we facilitated arts based workshops for a group of extraordinary young people with autism. The idea was to provide a number of art sessions where the young people got the opportunity to sample & tryout various art forms. Having a mixed group with ages ranging from 10 to 16 & at differing points of the autistic spectrum, meant we had to be very flexible during the 2hr sessions.
The activities included:
- Mask making
- Stop frame animation
- Film making
- Visits to art galleries
Although some of the young people found certain activities challenging we continuously encouraged them to participate & also allowed them to lead and change activities, which also challenged our practice. Involving a lot of team-based exercises developed the group dynamic & meant that we could create an environment where the young people felt comfortable with each other. During the stop motion animations we encouraged the young people to talk about their interests then got everyone in the group to draw pictures for each others animation. In Drama sessions we provided costumes, wigs & hats, played with frozen pictures & creating scenes, which encouraged cognitive challenges. Because one of the young people had a drama background, peer to peer learning happened, with others stretching their abilities & improvisation skills.
Over time the young people became open enough to ask questions about autism as some were unsure about what it meant. These discussions were an important part of the sessions which led to them talking about their differences & how it made them feel. Some talked about how they were being constantly bullied at school, being called names like ‘retard’ and ‘suicide’. One participant said ‘People need to realise that we’re not that different we just need a bit more help’. Within the group we celebrated each others differences & quirks by listing each participants special qualities. Tufayl, who is always checking whether you are OK, and asks people questions about what they like became the ‘Inquisitor’. With a super hero theme emerging we invited Marvel & DC illustrator John McRea to a session to meet & talk to the young people and also to run a few sessions with some of the young people, Jack who loves reading & drawing Manga, dreams of being an illustrator in Japan and Josh who has a super fast imagination. When Josh asked what he should draw we suggested a ‘Giraffopotamus’ & a ‘Butterflysaurus’ which he enjoyed & drew really well.
To document the sessions we used a video camera to capture how the young people and the activities developed over time. This also allowed us to occasionally interview the young people & parents to get some feedback on the project. Because the young people got so used to the camera we discussed creating a video piece with the group & how we could make this happen. It was here that Eliot came up with the title ‘To You From Super Me’. Over the next 3 months we used the drama sessions to develop their nominated characters & decided to create a 3 screen piece to allow an audience to meet these extraordinary young people as themselves & as their super heroes. With video rushes from the sessions & lists of the young peoples nominated qualities, John McRea was able to illustrate & bring their super heroes to life. While we invited photographer & video artist Chris Keenan to work with us on capturing the young peoples personalities for the big screens.