Art as communication for people with “special needs”
Could it be a person with “special needs” or so called “disabilities” is actual an exceptional gifted human being that could be holding some of the keys to helping bring forth a new and creative world for the future? Why do we tend to shut out the artistic and creative expression of such gifted people and more so if they are institutionalized? What are we missing when we do so? Is it an injustice to ourselves and to such gifted people as these that we do shut them out or our lives only because of their differences of expression and being?
Being noticed and accepted
Most healthy humans retain the baseline desire to be noticed and accepted on some level or degree. This sort of recognition of course involves being able to communicate who and what you are and more so what you need and want.
Isolation from the mainstream
Not everyone gets what they really need or want. Sadly regardless of the culture or prevailing mind set there are always people within it that will be closed off from the mainstream or majority of people. These types generally are persons for one reason or another that are forced to live in the silence of their own personal differences. Whether those differences be physical or mental they often render the person unable to fully communicate their needs and wants with the general collective. Sadly it is well known fact that that most systems in place generally ignore the efforts and resources required to approach those who do not fit in or have difficulties communicating.
Art as a doorway of understanding.
Creativity and art are deeper expression of the human mind and soul that reaches beyond the written or spoken word. Art has always been a powerful means of communicating what words cannot. Art is a baseline process of thought that not only portrays the known world but also the unknown universe of the inner self. It allows one to communicate such non verbal concepts as dreams, spirituality and mystical thought. In the case of special needs such as autism where a person can be rendered fully non verbal, art can be a key means of looking into an otherwise unknown private world.
Art as money and a pathway for people with special needs.
Art has in many ways become a powerful tool for the well planned capitalistic endeavors of corporations and business that seek the attention of the mass buyer rather than the personal or special needs of the individual. Well focused marketing schemes and distributions of money through grants and educational foundations sadly have a long history of ignoring the deeper needs and more personal aspects of the person with special needs. This doesn’t have to be the case as the marketing potentiality in such things as Outsider art has shows itself to a to be a highly successful and growing phenomenon. successful special needs foundations such as NIAD Art center and Creativegrowth have been able to gathered world wide appeal and attention.
The special needs person left in the dark
In my efforts to teach and offer new creative solution to people with special needs I have found I am clearly up against a dysfunctional, outdated system that often uses the so called “disabled” individual as a means of making money in light of the endless fears of legalities and state restrictions. Most of these so called “care giving” places are aimed at looking good on the surface but hidden underneath that is often a highly neglected client with no real creative outlet or means of communicating their true inner life. Many of these clients almost elusively suffer from working in a unhealthy creative environment directed towards disregarding the personal needs for special types of communication and artistic expression.How come it’s like this? How come the adult special needs person is forced to live in an ill planned child like world with little hope or action to address personal growth and creativity expression? Often the answer is fired back that there is no money for such programs. And no funding for educated teachers to provide such programs. Why is it that there is no money or funding available? Why is it always the same old thing? Why is the special needs person (consumer) treated like a second class citizen or a child? Endless exposure to low levels of stimulation and lack of creative only serves to further promote bad behaviors, misunderstandings and endless bouts of low self esteem and self worth.
For me a big part of the problem is everything is working almost exclusively in an outdated system often versed in fear of legalities and environments filled with uneducated workers. It needs to move forward into a new era of education versed in a new type of funding that spotlight individual artistic expression and healthy connection to the outside community and world. This can only come through the sort of education that specifically addresses the special needs of individual and the unique way they communicate.
Who is the person with special needs?
Just who is the person with a special need? What makes them the way they are? What makes them different? Can a misshapen leg, no legs, parts of missing brain, or a deeper form of autism be viewed as the means to an insightful expression? Or an earned strategy that could in some cases actually be innovative or sensitive to a higher or more radically form of thought and expression? Or if nothing else the special needs persons has a built in response that has something very important to say about the methods used for getting what is needed to survive and the approach (sometimes very radical) to get what is wanted by the body and brain. Different modes of seeing and doing things from the perceived norm for me is a fundamental baseline for the creativity expression of all serious artists and creative individuals.
Michael Zapotocky, autism and artistic expression.
Michael Zapotoky has radically changed my life, his whole being seems almost mystical and enlightened and so to place him in any sort of category is almost impossible. His “official” diagnosis is autism and he truly is to a great degree anti-social and almost completely non-verbal. But the definitions stop there and the great mystery of who and what he is begins. Anyone who has come in close contact with him for any extended period of time has felt their lives significantly impacted by his overwhelming presence of silence. His world is largely not understood in terms of his personal feeling for others and his reactions to his surrounding environment, His sensitivities are extreme and at times overwhelming for himself and those around him. When I began to study his expression as an artist I immediately realized he was a highly unusual human being with little or any concern for outward acceptance by others. The sheer number of his pieces of art over the years is staggering. He has filled an entire room with his art from the floor to the ceiling. And the complexities and approaches to that artistic expression are extremely complex and highly unusual.
The harshness of being different (my personal story)
I grew up in a complex world of endless misunderstandings and miscommunications. I lived in a environment largely shaped and put together by others that were radically different from me. The language used and the means given to navigate through such a reality had constant contradictions and endless amounts of confusion. Confusion that served to generated a constant isolation and loneliness factor in my young life.
My early school years became a nightmare. While others around me learned to count and to read and group together socially I was busy trying to come to terms with the complexities of people’s faces, with abnormal noises and saturation levels of color, Not to mention the overwhelming nature of my own inner symbolism. But it was and still is the people themselves that present the greatest difficulties for me.In the beginning I was highly non verbal. When I did learn words and speech I found them falling short of expressing the oddness and otherworldly of my own perceptions. I learned quickly that I was vastly different than my counterparts and that the learning system I was a part of was geared towards being verbal rather than visual. Art slowly became a way to express the radical differences of my world and theirs.
But there were problems and serious contradictions to work through. “Art” seemingly was something that my teachers used to replicate their own ideas and opinions about how the world should look and be. Art from their view was all about being able to copying the “exactness” of things from a supposed objective reality. The trouble with that sort of art was that it didn’t convey the sheer terror and intensity or even beauty of the world I was seeing or feeling. The art I felt and wanted to do seemed far away from copying the exactness of a tree or the objective details of a person’s face. In the beginning I was forced into the frustration of copying things from an objective reality created largely by others unlike me. But in my personal time I slowly gave into a secret hidden language within my own “disabilities” and it began to allow me a great deal of freedom and release.
Why do we tend to shut out the artistic and creative expression of unusually gifted people?
Could it be a person with “special needs” or so called “disabilities” is actually an exceptional gifted human being that could be holding some of the keys to helping bring forth a new and creative world for the future? Why do we tend to shut out the artistic and creative expression of unusually gifted people. People that often stand alone in an unspoken silence of extreme differences. What are we missing when we shut out such kinds of people? Is it an injustice to ourselves and to other not like ourselves that we put such things out of our lives?
Isn’t it time to change such narrow views of the world and open up to a new age of personal and collective creativity? My deepest and most sincere hope is that we are arriving at a new threshold of beautiful change and that it will opening up new doorways of communication not only for ourselves but for those distinctly different from ourselves. Disability or gift? I think without a doubt. . .gift!