Artists With and Without Autism Collaborate and Share Perspective on Community
Solana Beach author Andrea Moriarty announced the launch of the Radical Inclusion Traveling Art Exhibition with generous support from Synergy Arts Foundation and Revision Creative Arts Program. This art exhibition features collaborative artwork by six young artists with autism and six professional artists.
The exhibition will be on display at multiple locations across San Diego County from August 2019 to December 2020. Putting into practice the call to action from Moriarty’s recent book, Radical Inclusion: What I Learned About Risk, Humility, and Kindness from My Son with Autism, it showcases the social impact of open dialogue, integrated communities, and inclusion.
When Moriarty’s son finished high school, she and her husband created a podcast for him because he loves anything with a mic. They knew it would be more motivating and relevant than folding pizza boxes. About 50 podcasts into it, Moriarty began to notice a pattern. The prominent celebrity guests who said “yes” to an unlikely conversation with him, consistently exhibited risk, humility, and kindness. She believes these are the building blocks for a more inclusive culture. What began as a social experiment has become his way to belong in community. Moriarty wrote her second book to share these epiphanies that came through making the Talk Time with Reid Moriarty podcast.
Radical Inclusion is a big idea book about how we all thrive when we include people with disabilities. The book begins as a memoir, becomes a resource of best practices, and ends as a call to action. I hope nonprofit leaders and activists will feel empowered to make the world a better place and parents will glean hope and possibilities.
“I want to touch people’s hearts and motivate them to make a friend with different abilities.
“I recognized an idea that was bigger than me and my kid or his podcast. The greatest fear special needs parents have is what will happen when our adult children outlive us. They need natural supports in the community in order to live productive lives. Distinct from paid professional assistance, neighbors and organic friendships are the key to their social integration. I wanted to show how personally rewarding, and fun it can be to form these relationships.”
The cover of Radical Inclusion is artwork Moriarty licensed from artist Jose Nunez. He is represented by Creativity Explored in San Francisco, one of twelve model programs for adults with disability that is featured in the book. Moriarty visited this exemplary creative workspace to deliver a book to Nunez. After that trip, she wondered, “What is a small step we can take here in San Diego to show people what is possible?”
She organized the Traveling Art Exhibition to stimulate community organizations and spur people on to action that makes tangible differences for all adults. The artists in Radical Inclusion are matched in pairs to create a collaborative project that celebrates unique perspectives and mutual learning by recognizing the amazing narratives that individuals with different experience have to share. The artists used the theme of “community” as a stepping stone for a collective exchange of ideas and expression.
“Collaborating on a shared passion––whether it is art, music, or baking––brings out our best selves,” said Moriarty. “I hope viewers will see the artwork, hear the stories behind each piece, and be inspired to invite people from the margins of culture into the limelight. That is radical inclusion!”
What’s radical about inclusion––responding and interacting with people of different abilities––is that it beckons our best selves. When I say radical inclusion, I mean showcasing gifts and strengths in the crossroads of culture, not merely offering a row of segregated seating or a job sorting shoes in the backroom. Radical inclusion elevates adults with disabilities to a place where they have value and influence in community. For example, promoting their artwork as a viable part of the contemporary art movement, or booking an integrated band on the Belly Up stage, literally moves differently abled people from the margins into the limelight. Inclusion at its core is an invitation. It is an attitude, more than a theory or specific accommodations.
A shared passion is a shortcut and sure foundation for friendship. Several of the artists reported that at the first meeting their collaborator was quiet, reluctant, or avoidant. When a canvas was placed in front of them though, they jumped right in knowing what to do with the familiar materials. The project was an opportunity for many of the artists to see a professional studio for the first time, paint at an easel, or wash their own brushes. One young man demanded that he would need a beret to paint at an easel.” The next session, his collaborator had one for him. It is empowering to have another artist invest in your progress and believe you are legitimate.
Everyone should know that people on the autism spectrum are people first. We are more alike than we are different. So, just by being human, we have something in common already. Interacting doesn’t require any certification, special qualifications or a behavior specialist. I often tell people that humor works. And remind them not to take things personally, like lack of eye contact or avoidance. Go slow, presume competence, and stick with it. You will connect. The book has more than a dozen sidebars with specific tips for making your church or workplace more inclusive.
“I believe that inclusion in school settings benefits the typical peers the most. Including ten “special” students is the best way for the hundred other students to learn patience, creativity, problem-solving, compassion, resourcefulness, and humility––the very traits we all admire and want for society. This can happen for adults in neighborhoods as well as children in schools.”
“I was surprised by the interest level from professional artists wanting to be mentors. Many of them had experience and awareness of disability,” Moriarty shared. A Call to Artists was placed by Synergy Arts Foundation, based in Solana Beach. They support and nurture local artists and arts organizations of all disciplines in crisis by providing financial assistance. They pioneer programs in arts education for at-risk populations, arts for healing, community arts, and specific international and national art projects.”
The other key community partner is Revision Creative Arts Program, located in San Diego’s Old Town. They provide inclusive access to art, culture, social practice and environmental education through the framework of a creative workspace.
The Radical Inclusion Traveling Art Exhibition will be on display at Sophie’s Gallery Kensington, Revision Gallery in Old Town, the Foundry Gallery in Carlsbad, Culture Brewery Encinitas, City Hall in Solana Beach, The Church at Rancho Bernardo, and Lux Art Institute in Encinitas. For more details go to andreamoriarty.com.
Andrea Moriarty is the cofounder of Banding Together and author of two books on autism. She speaks nationally and leads workshops where she shares unending hope, affectionate humor, and innovative resources with parents and educators. Moriarty and her husband live in Solana Beach, California, where she accumulates books, cooks from scratch, and whistles while she works.