Working at TreeHouse is an intensive, interesting, challenging and rewarding experience. My work as an Art Tutor is part time (two days per week) and consists mainly of planning and running one-to-one art sessions, and occasionally of organising and carrying out special art projects.
I work mainly with pupils who have demonstrated a special interest in art and have been already engaged in it to a certain extent before starting to attend my weekly sessions. I enjoy very much seeing their enjoyment and interest in working with different materials. The challenge is sometimes to help them go beyond what they already knew and like doing – and it is very rewarding to see their progress and dedication in these new territories.
I also work with some pupils who have not demonstrated a particular interest in art before but it is considered that trying out this practice regularly might be beneficial for them. Most of these pupils have been able to relate to at least one media which was meaningful to them. It is great to witness how many students tapped into a state of focus and calm while working in the art studio. Through the years pupils have practiced a lot of drawing and painting from observation (still life, self portrait, and after a photograph), got familiar with different drawing and painting media (graded graphite pencils, oil pastels, watercolour, poster paints and acrylics) and techniques (shading, mixing, layering and diluting amongst others), created collages with different materials and practiced clay modelling.
An important aspect of working at TreeHouse is collaborating with different professionals. I have found it very helpful to be able to work closely with class staff, ABA consultants, Allied Health Professionals and Teachers, in facing the complex challenges that working with pupils with autism can pose. I have also collaborated with people from the wider organisation of Ambitious about Autism on projects in the areas of fundraising and public relations – in which pupils’ artworks and art projects were celebrated and harnessed as a means to raise awareness to the important work done by the charity as well as to raise money for the school (for example using images of artwork on greeting cards, auctioning paintings) – and it was great to feel part of this effort, especially since I found it also meant a lot to the parents and to some of the pupils.
Over the years I have curated and displayed several exhibitions of pupils’ artwork. Some took place in the school on the occasion of the annual Arts Day or the Christmas celebration and were viewed by parents, pupils and staff. I worked with pupils on creating the backdrop for the Christmas play. I also entered artwork by pupils to several art competitions, in which the entered works were shown in a public exhibition, and some of our pupils won prizes and awards. Recently I organised and ran two collaborative art projects resulting in two large scale pieces on permanent display. The first is a painted plaster relief hanging in the foyer area, which was created jointly by all pupils in the school. The second is an outdoor mural on the fence of the educational horticulture garden, which was designed and painted by several pupils. Working on large projects involving many pupils and staff can sometimes be stressful, but it’s a wonderful feeling to create something together, and to feel the sense of satisfaction when the piece is finished and being enjoyed by pupils, staff and visitors throughout the school and the wider organisation.