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For Autistic/Neurodivergent Visual and Literary Artists

We tell stories and create because we are fighting for something. To be heard. To be seen. For our dignity. For our dreams. What we say, what we create, is part of who we are, it is a manifestation of identity. Our stories showcase our truth. Our truth is a torchlight. A flame we cultivate and carry with us to light our pathways and to fuel our pursuits.

Existing narratives surrounding autism, neurodivergence, and disability are mostly written by those who do not hold those identities, and many of those narratives perpetuate forms of oppression and harm on personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels.

The Torchlight Residency is designed BY the Autistic / Neurodivergent / Disabled FOR the Autistic / Neurodivergent / Disabled AND strives to shift these narratives across ALL communities. 

The Torchlight Residency embraces the creative potential of neurodiversity by curating a cohort-based program that respects the passions of Autistic / Neurodivergent / Disabled artists and storytellers. It forges an artistic journey towards justice, empowerment, accessibility, visibility, and self-advocacy. 

Residents will engage in one of two self-determined pathways, visual art or literary art. Cohorts will come together under the guidance of an Anchor Mentor and Guest Artists to develop their personal works and create a collaborative project. Together, mentors and residents will move through a curriculum on disability justice, neurodiversity, art/words as activism, and self-advocacy. They will learn and discuss these themes as a group and use these conversations to deepen their work on the collaborative project.


Throughout the program, residents will have the opportunity to learn and practice new techniques, receive feedback, make connections with established artists, develop self-advocacy skills, and see ways they could center their passions and talents in their post-secondary pursuits. 

Collaborative Projects will be shared in a public show at Perfect Lovers, a zero-commission gallery and pop up coffee shop in Durham, from May 31st - June 24th. Residents will be a part of determining the ways in which this work will be shared.  



Autistic/Neurodivergent/Disabled students and young adults who exhibit unique talent and passion for visual or literary arts. This is open to ages 17-25 and prioritizes Durham Public School students currently in, or have graduated from, the OCS or Extended Content Standards pathways, especially those who also identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or as an AAC communicator. Residents who are currently enrolled in these pathways can receive internship hours that are a requirement for graduation. Those who are in alternative education settings, homeschool, or are no longer in school are also encouraged to apply. 


Applications for the 2024 Cohort will become live in late Fall 2023. Durham Public Schools students will have access to applications through their schools. If you are interested in this residency, please contact your school-based job coach. If you are not in Durham Public Schools, please contact

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