Art as an Outlet
Artists at the Asperger Autism Network speak about their work, as well as their disorder.
On a quiet Saturday in November, what appears to be a nondescript office building on the outside, is buzzing with activity on the inside. At the AANE in Watertown, Massachusetts, they are holding their annual 'artist collaborative' open house.
At first there's only a handful of people milling about, observing the art and deciding if they want to purchase anything.
But soon enough there’s a decent sized crowd present, and the noise level is at its peak.
What’s all of the buzz about? Most likely it’s the fact that all of the art created here came from the minds and hands of people with an Autism spectrum disorder.
AANE is an acronym for Asperger/Autism Network. The organization only rents a small space, but they offer a wide array of classes, programs, and simply help, to those affected by the disorder, including family members.
As part of their mission to offer support and education, their 'artist collaborative’ showcases the art of those in their community.
"[Photography] demonstrates to me that I’m not only very talented, but allows me to show the world how I see things," says photographer Ben Havens, gesturing to some of his pictures.
Havens, who has high-functioning Aspergers, described how his artwork provided a significant outlet for him, as it did for many of the other artists.
According to the CDC, as of March 2014, 1 in 68 children in America have an Autism spectrum disorder. The chart above illustrates the increase in the number of children with an autism spectrum disorder by their birth year. However only so many ADDM, or Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network sites, reported each year from 2000-2010, as is shown. For the portion of the population affected by this disorder, places like the Network work to help those affected, as well as educate the public about the spectrum, and where people fall on it.
Looking around the room, it's hard not to marvel at the beauty that’s been created and will hopefully be sold.
One of the artists, Tom Jenks, described his artwork as "psychedelic, visionary," and “abstract.” His colors and designs leapt off of the page, and when asked if he knew he could produce such things, his answer was one of modesty.
“No… I just kind of… started,” he says smiling shyly, his eyes bright.
Like most of the artists, John Williams explained that art provided a release for him, saying it had the power to sometimes relieve him of his anxiety.
The way each person described how they painted, drew, or simply created, it was almost like art was providing a mental and emotional medicine for how they lived their lives each day.
"When I'm in the zone I can, sometimes afford to tune out whatever’s going on in the world around me, somehow."