Shortage of avenues for autistic artists

Building inclusivity among people with autism is the need of the hour. And what better way to do that than through art, believe industry experts.

In anticipation of World Autism Day on April 2, Metrolife interacted with neurodiverse artists and institutions in the city, to understand how art is used to encourage artists with different abilities. Last month, Sravani Ramachandran organized an art exhibition featuring 27 disabled artists from across the country, at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath.

“The event was a huge success and made us realize how rare it is for artists with different abilities to exhibit their art. There really isn’t a space like that. This is one of the reasons why I decided to make the exhibition an annual event,” she says. Metrolife.

Sravani highlights the prejudice or contempt that people with autism face, even in the world of the arts.

“A collective effort must be put in place to remove this stigma from society. In fact, we should try to help promote their talents. It’s the push you need,” she says.

For Sridhar Rangarajan, it was the first time he exhibited his art. “Painting makes me very happy. I usually listen to early music and paint landscapes. It’s a passion for me,” he explains. He would like to meet more artists like him in Bangalore.

“Having a community of people I can relate to would help me push my art forward,” he says.

The art of living

While art is often used as a form of therapy, it can be turned into so much more, says Akshayee Shetty, founder of Sense Kaleidoscope, an art school for people with autism. He is based in Kalyan Nagar.

“It is necessary that these skills be honed, so that individuals can earn a living through art. They don’t have to depend on anyone anymore,” she says.

Sravani also agrees. “A work of art from someone on the spectrum is so valuable and should be treated that way. At the exhibition we sold over 50 paintings, which shows that if there is a push in the right direction, people in the neurodiverse community can make great artists,” she said.

The lack of an inclusive community is holding artists back, she believes.

“The pandemic has been regressive for the community”

“The pandemic and lockdown have had a regressive impact on individuals on the spectrum. These are individuals who constantly need a routine to grow and thrive, the pandemic has taken that away from them,” says Akshayee. Rajani (name changed), is the mother of a 15-year-old daughter with autism. Last year, she took an art and therapy course to better meet her daughter’s needs. “Having to stay home for a full year had dismantled his social skills and caused anxiety issues. I had heard about art therapy and its benefits, so I decided to give it a try. Luckily, it really helped her deal with her anxiety issues,” she told Metrolife. Pranav Nair, also found art to calm him down. Passionate about coloring, he is a student at Sense Kaleidoscope. “Whenever I feel upset or angry, I color or do pottery. It calms me down,” he says.

Children’s comic about neurodiversity

The concept of inclusivity should start from an early age, believes Nidhi Mishra, founder and CEO of Bookosmia, a Bengaluru-based publishing house. “Children are curious and ask questions to better understand. They are always free from bias and conditioning and best placed to understand a subject and practice inclusivity,” she adds. The publishing house recently published a comic, titled “Not That Different”, to introduce children to neurodiversity.