A recent collage exploring identity and the environment. 

What a year to become an A-N Board Member!

As I look back over a year of Board Meetings and pre-lockdown events I’m beginning to understand the purpose of my being at the A-N Board table. For neurodivergents this kind of processing can take longer for many neurological/socially determined reasons. It’s been an honour with a huge learning curve for an autistic self-taught artist/advocate. I’m grass roots from head to toe so I will be honest, it’s been a big step up for me. It goes without saying that it’s a very different matter to log on to A-N as a member from taking responsibility for upholding the vision of the organisation. Needless to say, this process has also taken place with added pandemic, which saw our CEO Julie Lomax in lockdown in Australia for several months. Julie’s mentorship of my process has been essential to the penny drop of my Board Member role, and she hasn’t missed a beat.

Our Board meetings have transmogrified from Toynbee Studios to Zoom, and the habitual journey into London from Oxford has melted away. The rush to meet my fellow Board Members for coffee and sandwiches ahead of our meetings is a distant memory. Far stronger is my impression of inviting them into my carefully curated Zoom room where all my home comforts are a step away. The sensory relief is extraordinary, and the multimodal communication facilitated by Zoom has been a revelation. An unforeseen effect of the pandemic measures is that I can be more present and effective in meetings. Who knew that this was even possible? It’s only when the agony of sensory assault is absent that you can gauge its toll.

This won’t be a long blog post, but I did want to check in with my thoughts. In between meetings I’m a quiet Board Member, quieter still as I’ve modified my online interactions recently. The pandemic makes you sort your priorities, doesn’t it? I’m thinking more carefully about what I post and what I want to invite into my home via my screen.

This year is also A-N’s 40th anniversary and I’m now more conscious than ever of how each member makes history when we post our content on the A-N site. In these most challenging times A-N remains a constant voice putting artists first, and I’m especially proud to have been granted tenure at this moment. Watch out for our 40th anniversary content and the Artists Council’s Artists Make Change project for uplift. Artists matter is our mantra.

So what do I bring to the Board? What is the point of me? Increasingly I feel the point is simply to be me, by which I mean the unmasked version of myself. Ironically, this has been made more possible by remote working because I’m able to be more effective while freed from the burden of sensory stress. I feel my job is to be authentic in all my communications and speak and write this truth about sensory need, as I am now doing, for the sake of change in the present and for historic record too. I’ve come to treasure our Board Meetings. It is an extraordinary Board and our conversations feel vital and enriching. As I said, it’s an honour and it’s also a joy.

Of course I can’t represent all neurodivergent artists – that’s not the point of my position – but I’d love to hear from more of you about what matters to you. I’m also here to be a voice in A-N’s ear.

You can contact me via tweet or Twitter DM @SoniaBoue