For children with autism, art is a great way to reduce undesirable behaviors, while keeping them happily engaged in creating works that are unique and self-expressive. An academy in Bengaluru is doing this and taking it a step further by showcasing the artworks of nine of their students at the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale, under Outsider Art. The exhibition that begins today will be on till March 3.
The works of People aged between 16 and 25 years and will be displayed at the Dravidia Gallery in Fort Kochi, and Anima Nair and Akshaye Shetty, founders of the academy, feel that this is an important move, as merchandising the children’s art and selling it directly will allow them to earn a respectable income. Currently, the percentage of adults with autism who are employed in even a part-time capacity is negligible. They aim to change that. Each artist has his/her own unique style and is well set on his/her way to becoming a professional artist over the next few years. Supported by the Biennale, Outsider Art refers to the art practice of people with autism who are not specifically trained in conventional art schools, have neurodevelopmental disabilities and deal with social exclusion.
The art they produce may be the outcome of their interests, obsessions, non-linear thinking, oversensitivity to stimuli and other characteristics associated with autism. It is important for their students to exhibit their works at a platform like the Kochi-Muziris Biennale since the experience will open many doors for artists with autism. For one, the world will see the potential of our students and others like them. Also, parents of children with autism can now look at art as a viable livelihood option by enrolling them in structured art programmes. Then, of course, there will be an increase in awareness about autism and why it’s necessary to include and not marginalise people with autism. I also hope that parents come out in the open and break old notions of stigma and prejudice.