Art and Autism

Ian’s twin brother, Jake, works to understand and support people with Autism through artistic expression.

“Art is one of the best ways for people to express themselves, and people with Autism specifically – from what I’ve seen in my own experiences – have really been able to connect with art,” said Jake.

Jake just finished his first year of college at Oberlin, whose curriculum allows their students to pursue a month-long, project in January. For his project, Jake worked as an Artist-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Autism Center (BAC), creating a sizable drawing inspired by the school.

This summer, BAC is moving across the hall into a bigger space. Jake intended his drawing to help the students comprehend the school’s relocation. 

“I have created a large scale artwork for the school with the intention of honoring the old space and acting as an associative bridge for both the students and faculty between the school’s old and new location,” wrote Jake in his Artistic Statement.

His piece comprises two hands making ripples in water, evoking the “ripple effect”––a tenet of BAC that expresses how a small action can have a significant impact. Jake used an ordinary blue ballpoint pen as his medium and loose scribble marks as his method. Jake made this decision based on his observation that students at BAC frequently draw scribbles with pens and pencils. As Jake noted, “the students were seeing me use a really familiar means of creating this image.”

Jake worked with the students at BAC throughout his artistic process. He wrote down all the questions that the students asked him about his project, picking out five of them to incorporate into his drawing through block quotes. In doing this, Jake amplified and celebrated the students’ voices.

Jake drew the scribbles on top of tape that, once removed, created the blueprint of BAC’s old and new spaces.“Many of the students are visual thinkers,” said Jake, “so one of the best ways to help people understand is to show [the transition] as a visual.” Visualization, to put it another way, is another form of communication.

Once Jake finished his drawing, he gave a presentation to student group A, during which he discussed the impending relocation. By pointing to various parts of his drawing, he was able to demonstrate the moving process visually.

Jake was happy with the response his drawing elicited from the students. He noted that, throughout his artistic process, students expressed interest that prompted organic conversations. Ultimately, he described his experience as an Artist-in-Residence at BAC as “fun and gratifying.”

Jake, however, noted that he “barely scratched the surface of art with connection to Autism.” For future projects, Jake wants to create art that is an active collaboration with people with Autism. Jake sees himself in a teaching role––helping the students create their own art. In the meantime, Jake is embarking on a new art piece for BAC––a large mural to be showcased in the lobby of the new space. Whatever the mural may depict (stay tuned!) Jake hopes to capture the essence of the Brooklyn Autism Center.