Neurodivergent Artists – What’s holding us back?

Last year Neuk Collective conducted two surveys investigating the experiences of neurodivergent artists in Scotland. We wanted to find out what ND people felt the barriers to them working in the arts are, and what ND people felt would help them to overcome those barriers. We’d like to take this opportunity say a massive thank you to the 50 people who shared their experiences with us across our two surveys, and the 10 people who came to one of our discussion events.

Today we’re publishing our report on the findings of the research. This blog post is a very brief summary that necessarily leaves a lot out, but you can access the full report, a shorter summary, and an Easy Read summary below and on the Resources page of our website. We also have audio versions of the two summaries.

Key Findings

Neurodivergent artists face a lot of additional barriers to working in the arts. Financial insecurity (specifically as a result of their neurodivergence), challenges in social settings, and, in particular, difficulties with the administrative tasks associated with a career in the arts (e.g. disproportionate time required to complete tasks such as applications, emails, or research) were considered the most important barriers. However artists also reported that difficulties accessing fundingnegative attitudescommunication gaps and barriers, lack of access to peer support, lack of access to quiet spaces/rest breaks, and unfeasible workloads/pace of work all also represented significant barriers.

The survey also showed that neurodivergent artists believe there are concrete, short- to medium-term improvements that would make the arts more accessible for neurodivergent people. All the possibilities suggested in the survey received high levels of support, but those considered most important were: assistance with administrative tasks (e.g. advice and support with writing applications), providing access to quiet spaces and rest breaks, and tailored mentoring schemes, opportunities and funding streams for ND artists. Longer-term, artists also favoured incentivising accessibility through attaching conditions to organisational funding. There was also strong support for setting up a professional network for ND artists that would enable supportive community-building.

A couple of issues were also brought up spontaneously in the free text section of the surveys:

–       People expressed a lot of anxiety about selling work, or receiving funding to make work while on disability benefits and there was strong support for lobbying on this issue.

–       Some artists reported frustration that ‘disability art’ is siloed and treated with less respect than mainstream art, and were uncomfortable being classed as disabled artists.  

What’s Next?

We’re currently writing a manifesto outlining our vision for the inclusion of neurodivergent people in the arts, due out in autumn 2021, and our research will feed into this. Longer term, we hope that understanding other ND artists’ priorities and experiences will help us to advocate for ND artists and produce resources to benefit the neurodivergent creative community and the organisations that want to work with us.

Download the reports Here