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- 12.30 Registration outside the Theatre on the ground floor of The Public, with teas & coffees
- Opening address in the Theatre – Friction Arts
- 1.10 Presentation from Autism West Midlands
- 1.30 ‘To You From Super Me’ exhibition view in the Lower Gallery
- 2.00 Viewing of the TYFSM documentary in the Theatre.
- 2.20 Discussion in the Theatre
- 3.10 Teas and coffees
- 3.15 Workshops in meeting rooms 1 and 2 on level 2 of The Public: attendees have a choice of either a drama or visual arts workshop, with young people from the ‘To You From Super Me’ art club:
- Visual Arts Workshop, co-facilitated by The Public. An opportunity for attendees to experience a visual arts workshop in the animation and light drawing igloo. We will be introducing basic stop frame animation, with a difference…
- Drama workshop, co-facilitated by Friction Arts. This will be an opportunity for attendees to experience a drama workshop led by our young super heroes.
- 4.15 – 5.00 Final discussion in the Theatre
For queries about the conference, please contact email@example.com
For access queries relating to The Public, please call: 0121 533 7161
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 (currently showing at The Public) is a result of a collaboration between Friction Arts & Sandwell Youth Services (SEND). For over 2 years now we have been facilitating 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.
Once in a while we would organize a session where we invited the parents to attend and see bits of what the young people had made & to perform some short drama scenes. This gave us an important opportunity to catch up with the parents about their child’s development/needs & we could also check in with them about ideas that we had for creating some kind of celebration day. On one of the parents sessions we set up a photo background, laid out all the costumes & let the young people dress up their families for some hilarious portraits.
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.
The installation was originally shown for 3 weeks in June 2011, but due to its success was requested again for a longer period. ‘To You From Super Me’ includes an over-sized, three-screen video projection edited by Chris Keenan, along with original images drawn by John McCrea of each young person who took part. A documentary film to accompany the piece, edited by animator and media artist Babis Alexiadis showing the art process.
Throughout the process we were constantly setting up an environment where autism & differences are discussed & celebrated, giving the young people the opportunity to look at themselves in other ways & explore how other people see them. At one point a young person who was teased at school began to talk about his autism as a gift which most normal people didn’t have. Cheyne’s mother was surprised when her daughter picked out clothes & wigs for the family portraits & put on a feather boa because Cheyne is very sensitive to touch. Other parents have noticed changes in behavior & confidence in their children.
“Josh feels understood for the first time and has grown great confidence. He’s never been enthusiastic about anything like he is about this project – it’s like a switch and with this group he comes alive”.
“Jack’s making friends, is more focused at school; this project has been immensely important for his development”.
Linda Saunders, Managing Director of The Public said,
“The Public are delighted to be providing the opportunity for this young and talented Sandwell Youth Group to have their work displayed alongside established, internationally recognised artists. Not only is the exhibition visually impressive it has had an incredibly positive impact on those involved – enabling them to develop new skills, increase confidence and enthusiasm.”
‘To You from Super Me’ will be exhibited at The Public from 30 May to 16th September 2012, Wednesday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm, Sunday, 11am – 3pm. Entry is free.
There are a lot of assumptions made regarding autism, which in my experience need to be challenged as ours have been over these past 2 years.
If you would like to find out more, we are hosting a symposium, ‘The Art of the Extraordinary’, on September 14th, from 12.30pm until 5pm, at the Public, where the young people and their parents will be hosting sessions, alongside our artists and professional from the sector. To find out more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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