Katie Chodosh tells us about her brother Jake’s fantastic art project
My brother Jake is 21 years old. He’s on the severe end of the autistic spectrum – he’s nonverbal and quite infantile in some ways. He now lives in supported living and he goes to college.
Jake went to TreeHouse School, Ambitious about Autism’s school, and they started doing art therapy with him about five years ago. He really enjoyed it. As he got older, we tried to find more activities for him to do at home. He had carers who came to the house, and one of them said, ‘I can paint – do you think he would he like to do that with me?’ It was all quite casual how it came about.
They sit next to each other and in between them they have a picture of whoever they’re painting, usually celebrities. Jake follows Leah’s lead. He likes instruction and routine – he needs that guidance. Their paintings afterwards are completely different. She does very literal interpretations – she copies it as it is. But Jake has his own take on it.
I’d taken a photo of one of Jake’s paintings and put it on Facebook, on a group for artists with autism. It got a lot of attention, people commenting, asking to see more – the website, Artism by Jake, came from there. People started to say, ‘I’d love to buy some of his work – are you doing prints?’ So we started selling prints for charity – we’ve raised nearly £2,500 through the site for Ambitious about Autism and Norwood.
Sense of pride
In some ways, it’s hard to tell the impact that painting has had on Jake because he is non-verbal. But when we do things – we did a small exhibition back at TreeHouse School at an art fair, or when he signs his prints – you can see the sense of pride. He sits up a bit taller and he’s grinning.
People are really lovely – they like the paintings and they like the story too. We never wanted people just to like it because it was a ‘sob story’ – people just like it, which is the best thing. He’s an artist. And it’s something he’s learned too – he’s really improved over time, this isn’t something he was just naturally good at.
We’d like to do another bigger exhibition, just of his work. That’s a very visual, lovely thing for him – he really understands that. In the future, we really want to start art lessons for other people, especially adults. There’s a real gap for activities and things for adults with autism to do. If other people could then start to sell their prints and things, we’ll see huge benefits for lots of people.
As told to Lindsay Cochrane
Enable Magazine, Mar/Apr 2015
Artism by Jake