When asked, Joel will tell you that he has a big imagination – this is shown perfectly by his impressive mixed media models, inspired by TV shows including the Power Rangers. Yet the careful and intricate work that Joel does to structure and decorate his pieces is entirely his own, done almost entirely unassisted. One of the overwhelming benefits of moving into our own studio means that Artbox has been able to offer much more time for the artists to work. For Joel this means that while he used to only spend two hours in the studio a week on his models, he now spends nine hours a week here – he particular gets to make use of the Open Access studio time, which allows for artists to work independently. When asked about how working on his models makes him feel, Joel said:
Joel is also benefitting from the fact that having our own studio means that we will be able to stay open all year round. Joel, and our other artists, don’t like it when we close – this is due to the lack of other activities provided for people with learning disabilities and autism. Coming to Artbox has been, and continues to be, an important part of Joel’s week since 2011. In this time, we have seen Joel become more independent in ways other than just in his art, having transitioned from living at home to living in supported living. This is a fairly stressful experience for someone with learning disabilities and autism, so we are proud to have seen Joel taking this step.
Another benefit that the structure of Artbox is that it has allowed for Joel to really feel that he has friends. Having said that it was a dream of his to have friends, he has truly developed friendships in the studio and unprompted will take interest in the volunteers and other artists in the studio. This is a big difference from the past, and it has been wonderful to experience him opening up to other people. In return he is also valued by his fellow artists, for example, in recent times another artist, Toyin, bought him a gift and written on the label was ‘To my friend Joel’ – this was an extremely formative moment for in harbouring a sense of belonging for him. When asked about his new friends and friendships, Joel will simply say that he feels “Happy” – and this is exactly what we hope for.