June 2017

Flow Observatorium: Neurodivergence, creativity and employment

Neurodivergence is a new term describing people who experience the world differently and whose ‘brain wiring’ diverges significantly from the prevailing societal standard of ‘normal.’ Autism and
dyslexia are examples of innate neurodivergence; both have a fundamental impact on the way neurodivergent people relate to the world. Neurodivergent (ND) artists have been invisible for too long and not received the appropriate recognition, support or understanding they’ve needed to reach their full potential.

Many neurodivergent artists need advocates championing their work and helping others understand and support them. This culturally benefits us all and is fiscally prudent. Only 16% of autistic adults are in full-time employment, but most ND artists freelance. This suits their preferred way of working, allowing for creation of “safe” working environments but proves difficult when  demands extend beyond making work:

“We have to fit a whole company in our head, marketing, accounts. These are not our strengths; they lay in detail, pattern finding and making innovative work,” says Jon Adams.

Communication, socialising and networking take ND artists into arenas they find extremely uncomfortable and where support is most needed. Mark Lever, Chairman of National Autistic Society, says:

“With a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, [autistic people] can be a real asset to businesses across the UK. Autistic people deserve that chance.”

From 2016 Flow began talking to artists and autism experts about the need for ND people to run organisations with an authentic voice. Flow Observatorium has ND ideals at its core and encourages other neurodivergent creatives to achieve change. We are establishing a national hub led by ND artists to make work, collaborate and engage within the cultural sector in creating
attitudinal ‘safe spaces’. If you want to experience new and differing work, commission people who experience the world differently but (think differently yourself and) change the ways you
work with them.