Acclaimed Autism Art Exhibit Moves to Steele Group

By Staff

1On May 6th, the exhibit “Layers: An Exhibit of Artwork from Artists on the Spectrum”, moved to The Steele Group Architects as part of First Fridays Gallery Hop. The exhibition will be on view through the month of June. during the month of April, the exhibit of artwork by children from ABC of NC, a Winston-Salem based provider of autism services, was on display at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts in celebration of Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month.

The exhibit features mixed-media artwork created by children (ages two to 21) with autism, under the guidance of artist-in residence, K. Wood. The exhibition also features work created by ABC of NC students as part of a partnership with SECCA and The Engaging Educator. The project was made possible, in part, through a Community Enrichment Mini-Grant from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

“The process we used to craft the artwork for the exhibit incorporated multiple techniques and a variety of layers to create pieces that had depth and interest,” remarked artist in residence K. Wood. “Many individuals with autism can be over-stimulated by sensory input, so it was important that the process be sensitive to these challenges. So we encouraged the kids to use their fingers or take advantage of a variety of gadgets and tools, from cotton swabs and saran wrap to paint brushes and rollers.”

When speaking about the collaboration, The Engaging Educator Founder and Artistic Director Jen Brown reflected on what she considers to be the biggest success of the program, “Many museums have a ‘be quiet and admire the art’ reverence which can create anxiousness even among typically developing children. It was important to all of us working on the project that our friends with autism feel at ease and be able to make connections between the art they see in the museum and their everyday lives.”

Brown, alongside SECCA program coordinator Alex Brown, helped prepare the children for their visit to the museum with a social story and pre-visits, and once they were on-site, SECCA offered an assortment of touch-friendly objects for exploration, coordinated museum walks, and incorporated multi-model engagement strategies– moving like butterflies, posing like sea creatures, imagining textures–to view the art.

“For many families of children with autism, the world can feel pretty small. Most wouldn’t consider a modern art museum an option for a family outing,” said Casey Raymer, director of development for ABC of NC. “Making the broader community more accessible for the children and families we serve has long been a goal of ABC of NC and we’ve been thrilled to find so many community partners willing to help us in this endeavor.”

Steele Group Architects are located at 217 W. Sixth Street

“Through this collaboration we created opportunities for artistic expression, cultivated experiences that helped our friends with autism understand how to interact with art in a museum environment, and established SECCA as a place where they can feel comfortable being themselves,” said Connie Schroeder, director of development for SECCA. “And really, isn’t that the experience we want everyone to have in a museum environment?”