A poster advertising Night School for young creatives

One of the most exciting things about my role here at Arts Connect has been having the power to shape my own learning and development. As a multipotentialite my passions cover and touch a range of subjects. Sometimes having too many options of things that spark joy can feel very overwhelming, so I thrive within the constraints and freedoms of programmes which offer creative development for young artists and makers. I love being in environments that allow me to hone and develop a broad range of skills and interests that can be applied to the varying ways that I enjoy spending my time, developing my craft and expressing my creativity.

Now imagine this, you’re at home – feeling frustrated with the lack of development opportunities or the abundance of opportunities that force you to pick one pathway. You do a google search – nothing comes up but college courses and degrees. You close the browser, go back to instagram and aimlessly scroll through stories of the people you follow. In-between those posts an ad pops up made up of two beautifully melanated people and a type- face to DIE for.‘ Night School’ you swipe up. Head over to the golden ochre coloured landing page and your heart is warm and glowing.

Night School is a free eight-week training programme, open to all
18-25 year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds, designed to unlock creative potential and open doors to a future career within the creative industries. No experience or qualifications necessary.

It’s perfect! It’s the programme you’ve been looking for,it’s free,it doesn’t demand 72367 years of your time for unpaid work, it fits around your work schedule, it’s a collaboration between a Black led and POC focused online and print magazine (Yellowzine) and an advertising agency (The Brooklyn Brothers) that are brave enough to recognise their privileges and make space for people like you and the application is ACCESSIBLE! No stuffy wordy questions, no cvs. Beautifully written copy and two simple questions that you can answer like the back of your hand.

Why do you want to be part of night school?

What does creativity mean to you? * you can add media*

I answered the questions in the form of a poem and a collage:

Creativity is fighting imposter syndrome and recognising the unique and valuable ideas YOU bring to the table. It’s the ability to be able to transform non tangible things into stuff. It’s the peaks and troughs of seeing something through til the end. Creativity is being able to make magic out of rubble and dust. Creativity is resilience. Creativity is being unapologetic and allowing things to flow and exist. Creativity to me is healing. It’s the beautiful super power of being able to find the story in everything . It’s turning trauma in to profit. It’s making your lows into your highs. Creativity is the blood that runs through my body and keeps me alive everyday when words fail. Creativity is finding the patterns, shaping the patterns and creating new patterns.

The programme followed a simple structure where every session broke down a part of the creative process, it included: Finding your creative voice and identity as an artist and content creator. Finding insights & the ‘why’ behind an idea. The importance of narrative and how text can be refined and expanded. Visual expression and the power of strong design choices. Producing with partners and working collaboratively. How things are made ‘famous’ in culture and finally we put all these skills and knowledge together to present our final project at our grad show. All of the sessions were so inspiring and the skills and knowledge gave me new and exciting ways to reframe my thinking around my creative process.

Night school got some pretty exciting coverage too, from It’s nice that, Shots, page 7 of the Financial Times and an article in Campaign where each of us as participants were given a spotlight.

For the grad show the project I presented was called Past, Present, Future it is my first instillation I have worked on and the first time I have explored digital design within my practice. The insight behind the project was that the world needs more neurodiverse stories. People who exist outside of the neurotypical binary are often dismissed, ignored or only shown in moments of crisis. This is not the whole experience of what it’s like to live with a brain that works differently from other people. Its half of a story and poor representation that often encourages more stigma and misunderstandings. Past, Present, Future is a mixed media project that uses watercolour, acrylic, found materials, digital design and pattern making. Each piece is paired with an affirmation on the reverse. It is a 3 card tarot spread that aims to demystify the positive vs negative paradigm that neurodiverse people are often presented in. It explores the non-linear and the constant evolutionary nature of that lived experience. The installation focuses on traditional tarot archetypes with a contemporary twist and follows the format of a past, present and future spread. All of the pieces were paired with a bespoke altar based on the messages of the tarot cards underneath them.

The most important lesson I learned while being part of Night School was how to clarify and communicate the importance of my access needs in a way that is easy for others to understand. The night of the grad show was both overwhelming and confusing for me as there had been miscommunication in the production process which meant that my pieces arrived late, weren’t the dimensions of the plan and also couldn’t be presented in the way that was planned. Being neurodiverse means that my reactions as a result of a change in plan may often be more extreme than a neurotypical person. Living and working outside of London and commuting down for the course meant I had less creative control and ability to check in on how things are going. Despite my disappointment with the final presentation of the work, I was able to make meaningful connections and network with people on the night and the result of that has been me getting a mentor who works for a company that I really admire. Things do not always go to plan but they always turn out exactly how they are meant to. I have learnt the resilience to bounce back from my ‘failures’ and how to adapt in stressful situations. I’ve learnt that even in moments of unravelling I can still create beautiful things. I learnt that the universe laughs at your plans and as a maker sometimes the truest measure of your creativity is the ability to think on your feet. I have also been surprised by the power of disclosing your access needs with clarity and the willingness of others to try to accommodate you once they are given the tools they need to understand and empathise. On finishing my internship I plan to revisit the work and think about ways I can incorporate my original plan and also explore new materials within the work.

Overall Night School was a transformative process for me. I recognise it as a great privilege in my creative journey , because I was the only person from outside of London on the course but also commuting is expensive, and having an employer who would (and could) financially support that part of my journey gave me a chance to access an opportunity that just wouldn’t have been viable for me without that help.

Stacey Flowers a motivational speaker and life coach in her famous TED talk explores the 5 people you need to be happy, an important part of that 5 is a champion, someone who roots for you and your journey. If it wasn’t for being championed by Arts Connect, Yellowzine and The Brooklyn Brothers I do not know how I would’ve managed to stay so inspired and curious in 2019.

I would highly recommend anyone who has the financial means or the bravery to show up as their authentic self to get involved with the work that Yellowzine are doing. There are truly people in this industry who have no desire to be gate keepers but just want to ensure there is a seat at the table for everyone and that is a community I am proud to be part of.

Light and Love

Jae x