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Talented QE Art Student Creates Multi-sensory Masterpiece

Date Posted: 07/07/2023 | Posted In: Latest news

A multi-sensory playroom created by a QE art student and inspired by her autistic cousin has been hailed a masterpiece by those who attended a college exhibition. Abi Flory, 19, designed and built the interactive, sea-themed sensory room to create a calming, immersive environment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as part of her final body of work on the Art Foundation course at the College. The aspiring illustrator, who is keen to pursue a career supporting neurodivergent children with her artistic talents, was applauded by designer, author and illustrator Madeleine Rogers, the creator of the award-winning Mibo books. After seeing Abi’s work, she said: ‘I was absolutely blown away, I couldn’t believe that it was Foundation level, I really thought it was degree or beyond. It was incredible.’

Abi’s six-year-old cousin Max, who was diagnosed with autism in 2020, has inspired her art for several years. She achieved A* in A Level Graphics at QE last summer after creating a pop-up book, titled Max’s Monster, that featured Max and a friendly monster called Milo as part of her coursework. Having also achieved A* grades in A Level Fine Art and Sociology, Abi chose to remain at QE to take the BTEC Level 3 Art Foundation course – a one year course for students interested in pursuing a creative career. Abi, who plans to study Illustration at Teesside University, said: ‘Max is my motivation and this year I created ‘Submerged’ as a safe space that would benefit the lives of those experiencing sensory issues. These spaces are life enhancing, and successfully achieving a space that could impact children like Max in a positive way was very important to me.’

Submerged features sea creatures that Abi designed and painstakingly engineered with interactive elements to encourage children to touch and move the pieces. she also used special lighting and calming music to create the engaging artwork. The project sat alongside sculptures, creative fine art, photography and graphic designs in a recent college exhibition of work by the 25 students on the Art Foundation course at QE. Max and his family visited QE to experience Abi’s work. She said: ‘Seeing Max interact and engage with the space in its intended way was incredibly rewarding and moving.’

Among those who came to see Submerged was Zoe Mather, Education Officer at the National Association for Special Educational Needs, who said: ‘Abi shows a depth of understanding of the needs of her autistic cousin with a level of co-production and compassion that is reflected in the detail and quality of finish to her sensory room. She has the passion, the heart, the talent and the drive to succeed and for a Foundation level project, this is beyond expectations.’ Jane May, the Deputy Head Teacher at Beverley School, in Middlesbrough, a specialist school for children and young people with autism, also viewed Abi’s artwork. She said: ‘It promotes communication and would help to self-regulate students through the various sensory input within the room. My students would love it.’

Art Foundation course leader Simon Gregory said: ‘Abi has created a masterpiece that is not only visually stunning but designed and engineered to perfection.’ QE’s Teacher of Graphic Communication Robin Armitage, who has taught Abi for three years, added: ‘Her level of professionalism, her immense creativity and her unfathomable work ethic are astounding, but it is the meaning behind her work – her dedication to helping Max and children like him – that makes Submerged such a beautiful and genuinely moving experience.’ Abi recently won two art competitions at QE, the first a design project for sports clothing brand UGD Apparel, based in Durham, and the second a branding project for The Dog Barn Darlo, a proposed dog day care facility on Staindrop Road, in Darlington.

QE offers four art and design courses at A Level – Fine Art, Photography, Graphic Design and Textiles – as well as the Art Foundation course. Abi added: ‘Being in this environment, surrounded by like-minded, creative and talented people, is inspiring in itself. The staff are all so approachable and encouraging, and without their support I simply wouldn’t have achieved my full potential.’