While 2019 felt like a tough year across the globe, one thing that filled us with pure joy was having James Shreeve intern with us for three months. An autistic artist who often works under pseudonyms connected to science fiction motifs and cats, James’s work unites his twin obsessions of patterns and narrative.
James’s internship was a paid position and only possible thanks to generous donations from Our Friends Electric. Paid internships in the arts can be an invaluable way for people facing barriers to employment to gain much needed professional experience – whether due to health, disability or social circumstance.
After reflecting on the importance of internships, this year we are relaunching the Our Friends Electric scheme to focus solely on supporting paid internships. We believe in fair pay for all and we want to focus our effort on someone who might otherwise be excluded. Our ambition is to create a year round paid internship programme which shares our skills, helps to build confidence, and gives first-hand experience of working with artists.
Plastic Tiger Factory at Visability Arts, Brighton
With both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in Digital Media Arts and Media, James also makes, exhibits and sells his own work as an artist, and acts as an ambassador for Outside In Arts and a Trainer for Aspie Trainers – both charities which specialise in supporting people facing barriers to employment.
James describes his internship as a ‘truly unique and rewarding experience’, something his mentor Dave Laycock at Aldingbourne Trust supports: “The way Blast Theory treated James and adapted their work practices to suit him and his style has been an example to other employers. I saw James grow in confidence as he realised he is not just an autistic person who happens to be good at all things art based, but also as an individual who is accepted in the workplace as an equal and a colleague.”
Take a look at the video below to hear from James himself on the impact of the placement and his advice on employing someone with a ‘hidden’ disability.
Autistic artist James Shreeve on working at Blast Theory
James’s placement was only possible thanks to the generosity of donations. We want to create a year round paid internship programme to give opportunities to people without the means to work unpaid and who otherwise might be excluded. Help us by donating at blasttheory.co.uk/support-us
Please help support the Our Friends Electric Paid Internships by donating and sharing this blog with your networks. Thank you!
If you’re facing barriers to employment or are interested in recruiting someone with a ‘hidden’ disability read more on some of the organisations which offer support and advice. In each case, we’ve either worked with them directly or they’ve been recommended to us by a professional in the sector.
- The Aldingbourne Trust, West Sussex This award-winning charity works with adults with learning disabilities and/or autism providing education, training and specialist care. Their focus is on building strong partnerships with local businesses and employers which allow people to contribute to the communities they live in and fight for real opportunities so they can make their own mark.
- Visability Arts, Brighton Empowers artists living with ‘invisible illnesses’ by creating environments for artists to exhibit as well as a professionally curated online space. The organisation has become a leading advocate of accessibility in the arts.
- Aspie Trainers, West Sussex Provides bespoke personal training sessions for companies in the public and private sector in Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. All training is designed and delivered by autistic people.
- Autistic UK, UK wide Offers support for autistic people especially artists. In particular help with funding for applications to get artists’ work off the ground.
- Possability People, Brighton A really important organisation offering support to disabled people at work – from benefits applications, employment support and even activities to improve health.
- Outside In, UK wide Founded in 2006 as a platform for artists facing significant barriers to the arts due to ill health, disability, social circumstance or isolation. The charity’s work covers three main areas; artist development, exhibitions and training.
If you know of organisations that should be included in this list please let us know so we can add them to the page and keep sharing their work. Leave your comments below. To read more about the scheme visit the Our Friends Electric page.