Radio LUMI

7 PM | Access Advisory Spotlight: Jack Hawk

October 15, 2021 Luminato Festival Toronto
Radio LUMI
7 PM | Access Advisory Spotlight: Jack Hawk

Ramya Amuthan (00:01):

You're listening to Radio LUMI on ISO.FM. I'm Ramya Amuthan, one of your hosts on the station, one of four hosts. We've been having a wonderful time talking to and with people from the Luminato Festival. The team from the Luminato Festival actually have been exploring a lot of great learnings themselves by speaking to individuals on what they call the Lunch and Learn Series, and so that's what we'll call it too.

Ramya Amuthan (00:30):

This is with members of their Access Advisory. One of these individuals is Jack Hawk, the outreach coordinator at Tangled Art + Disability. His involvement with the Luminato Advisory Committee has led to our conversation today. We're going to get to know him a little bit today on Radio LUMI and pick his brain also, because there's a lot of great stuff that we want to get to.

Ramya Amuthan (00:56):

Jack, welcome to Radio LUMI and thanks for coming on.

Jack Hawk (01:00):

Hi, thanks for having me.

Ramya Amuthan (01:02):

Excited to talk to you. To get started, do you mind just introducing yourself a little bit and telling us about your role at Tangled?

Jack Hawk (01:10):

My name is Jack. I use he/him pronouns. I consider myself an autistic, Indigenous, and trans person. As you mentioned, I'm also the outreach coordinator at Tangled Art + Disability. My role has been pretty pliable since I got hired on. I've navigated a lot of different methods of outreach from workshopping with artists, connecting one-on-one with individuals, partnering with other like-minded organizations on big and little projects, and providing educational opportunities. I guess it's kind of a joke because my name is Jack, but I feel kind of like the Jack of all of trades sometimes at Tangled. I get my hand in all of it a little bit, if that makes sense.

Ramya Amuthan (02:04):

Yeah. Yeah, no, it makes total sense. You have a lot of background and a lot of experience yourself.

Jack Hawk (02:10):

Yeah. I don't think there's anything wrong with... What's the word? Being very into a lot of things and master of none. I actually think it kind of keeps my mind open and my experience is open. I'm always changing and growing, if that makes sense.

Ramya Amuthan (02:28):

Yeah. Ditto. The amount of stuff that I've said "sure" and "yes" to just because I want to try it. Right?

Jack Hawk (02:36):

A hundred percent. That's a good way to describe my job at Tangled. Definitely have done things I never thought I would do and have been so cool. It's definitely taken a trajectory I never thought it would, but in the most positive way.

Ramya Amuthan (02:53):

Absolutely. Can we go back to that term outreach? I think it's pretty widely used, very broad term to mean, in my opinion, anything and everything when getting people connected with each other or involved in different communities and of course getting people aware of services and offerings and programs and things like that. With your experiences and learnings as an outreach coordinator, as you said there's a lot, can you tell me about your impressions of what good outreach feels like?

Jack Hawk (03:23):

Yeah. Well outreach is definitely like a pretty vague term. I think if I've learned anything it's that everyone kind of has a different idea of what it means. I think it's fine that... Everyone navigates what outreach means for them as an organization differently. I don't know if I can rightfully say I'm doing the best or like the goodest good outreach, but I do think from what I've learned that nothing matters more than building sustainable relationships and proving trust with the people you're trying to reach. I think that's something people ask us at Tangled a lot, about our outreach and how we stay connected and how we manage to maintain our community.

Jack Hawk (04:13):

While I think when you work and live in highly vulnerable communities, you don't really want to get mined. You want mutually beneficial relationships. Being marginalized means you don't really ever get to just be an audience member. Your head gets counted for this or that because of the tokenizing nature of Canadian cultural and community work. I think pretending that doesn't exist kind of squanders the point of outreach, right? That whole methodology needs to be transformed to something that actually provides something meaningful. I think being open-minded and nonjudgmental, but most importantly, investing in other people. You want people to stay around and you want to commit to them, and something like disability arts, that can be the vital key in bridging people together. You're committing to artists who are staying around your community and coming to your space.

Jack Hawk (05:12):

Then for example, that could close age gaps between Deaf, Mad, and Disabled artists. That passes down knowledge and practice. I've seen that first hand, people who never would've had the opportunity to connect before just because they're hanging around the same space, because it's a space they both trust. Asking what opportunities people need rather than trying to shove people into the opportunities you think they should be seeking. I think the word investment is what I always try and think about with outreach, that it's not just simple networking. It's actually building something maintainable and long term with people.

Ramya Amuthan (05:54):

Yeah. It's a really good point about putting people into boxes because I think that that's just happened for so long and now we're trying to say, oh, I don't actually belong in this box, in our own lives and in the communities that we're trying to build, but at the same time that trust that you're trying to establish.

Jack Hawk (06:14):

Yeah, exactly. A lot of like, for example talking about access, access in art spaces, which originally developed from like a service provider kind of mentality... replicating medical standards in a way for treating Deaf, Mad, and Disabled people, which whatever, sounds great, but it really just replicates the same power dynamics that sit and exist when you're also in those medical spaces. I think turning outreach from like this, oh we can provide you a service, which kind of puts this awkward power and onus in the dynamic of just being like, well, why don't we sit together and work things out and figure out what you actually want and what you actually need. What's actually useful to you?

Ramya Amuthan (07:01):

Yeah. No, absolutely. That's why I think that some of the spaces that I think of when I think trusting, I don't even... like in the back of my mind, I know it will be outreach that got us into the relationship and the dynamics, but I don't think of that as the first word. Right?

Jack Hawk (07:23):


Ramya Amuthan (07:23):

I think, this is an absolute safe space for me where I love the people here, the community, but I don't even go back and think outreach, that's what gotten me... It's done so beautifully and subtly.

Jack Hawk (07:37):

Yeah. I do think outreach is, you're right, subtle, That first face you see of an organization or an artist and you don't even know it. Actually, you have to be very conscientious about the way you're doing outreach. Obviously not necessarily social media outreach, but like the face to face the kind of connections for sure.

Ramya Amuthan (08:03):

Jack, I want to talk about neurodiversity because this is a movement and I want to talk specifically about how it relates and contrasts with autism. I heard an explanation that you shared that I think is very enlightening. Do you mind elaborating on that for us?

Jack Hawk (08:23):

Yeah, so it's pretty cool. Neurodiversity, so it was a term coined by a sociologist named Judy Singer whose mother was autistic and it gave birth to the first word to describe autism that wasn't like tea-steeped and pathogolizing medical stakes. I mean, considering there is historic evidence we've always been around, but the only people who ever bothered to define it or find a word for it were the same ones trying to actively eradicate us in the 1940s. It sets a certain tone about the relationship between being autistic and existing in the world. Then you found in the eighties and the nineties, people were finally hearing about autism on a regular basis. Both in media, like movies were starting to come out with autistic characters, stereotypical Rain Man and things like that, and in their personal lives...they're hearing more people are getting diagnosed and things like that. Especially thanks to the internet, which I would say is kind of like the autistic playground in the world. A lot of us thrive there.

Jack Hawk (09:37):

Anyway, people were finding like the meaning of something they'd never really understood about their lives before. They were meeting other people who are also developing language to describe these things outside a doctor's office. We're seeing autism less as like... I think if I remember, Hans Asperger described it as an affliction that affected someone from birth to death. Then people were seeing it more as a natural way of being, just another piece of the big human cog that makes the world turn. Being autistic, especially with the growth of the internet, started to become just as much as a cultural identity. Maybe even more than a medical one. Doctors know more about autism than ever now, because of autistic lead initiations and communities.

Jack Hawk (10:31):

When people realized this is literally just who we are and we have our own culture and our own way of being and existing in the world, it became a bigger thing. Neurodiversity as a term and movement was born from a community need and a need to connect with other autistics in a non-traditional way that wasn't being stared down by doctors or counselors or APA therapists.

Jack Hawk (10:59):

Steve Silverman, he's an author on a really awesome book called Neuro Tribes, which is about the history of neurodiversity and autism's legacy on the movement. It's a fantastic book, but he describes it as autistics took agency and control over their own lives and perspectives and define their lives in terms that made sense to them, which I don't know. I think that's pretty punk rock. Then the neurodiversity expanded, as a lot of things from the autistic community do. I mean, autism is just one facet of diversity of the human mind and even autistics are all vastly different, have different problems, sensory joys. I'd honestly be really impressed if you could find two of us who would like agree on everything.

Jack Hawk (11:52):

It's really awesome, and neurodiversity has grown and become a community bringing together so many different experiences of disability instead of appointing people to the ultimately white supremacist notion that there are bad brains and good brains. You have a natural taxonomy of human beings that doesn't require judgment on function or ability. You don't have to be broken, by example, for like how a childhood trauma or intergenerational trauma has shaped your brain or how medications have permanently altered your chemistry or things like that. You're neurodiverse rather than a deficiency. You're also part of a community now where people see your strengths and value them, like biodiversity in a forest or something.

Ramya Amuthan (12:39):

When I think of the challenges, because it's such a well-needed movement and it's something that I think the reasons... some of the reasons why it's so difficult maybe for people to get on board, is realistically because people, all kinds of people in the disability community have been spoken for for so long. That is not limited to neurodiversity conversations, but in general. It's that you have a person with a disability, okay, somebody needs to speak on behalf of them. Somebody needs to tell them what they need. Now when you say take the power back, that's really incredible and really important to push these movements forward.

Jack Hawk (13:27):

Yeah, exactly. To kind of move away from so many of the origins that have defined us, and in a lot of the ways defined us in hopes of minimizing us. Especially when you're working with disability and you're being medically defined and those medical definitions are created for insurance purposes. Here's what you have to get rid of in a person, and things like that. Yeah, it's definitely a big deal.

Jack Hawk (14:01):

Right now at Tangled we have a show on called "Non-Deliverable" and it's being curated by Carmen Papalia who identifies as a non-visual learner rather than blind because he finds the term too steeped in medical stigma. He coined the term open access which is, I'm just going to read it, it is a temporary collectively held space where participants can find comfort in disclosing their needs and preferences with one another. It's a responsive support network that adapts as needs and available resources change.

Jack Hawk (14:34):

I've been pretty psyched about that lately because when we're talking about service provision and the power dynamics, if you really think about it, when we create those moments together... For the gallery right now, this concept is joined by illustrations where he collaborated with Heather Kai Smith, where it's these red drawings of children playing cats cradle. Think about how instinctively growing up there's moments of open-mindedness and putting our hands in one another and figuring out what another person needs to learn and be creative and have a rich experience. It's just something I think about versus like, the super medical [inaudible 00:15:21], but also like being advocated for, without autonomy of your own body and desires.

Ramya Amuthan (15:28):

Exactly, exactly. It goes to so many threads. It goes into so many different places, but I want to touch on, and I think that this is a good transition because relaxed performances and relaxed spaces, you love these, you advocate... you're very open about how they make you feel. They're trending upwards for sure, at least in my knowledge and experience. As a low vision person, I love it. It makes me very excited in a lot of minor and major contexts, like personally in my own bedroom or going out to a relaxed performance. Can you talk a little bit about how relaxed environments benefit you?

Jack Hawk (16:13):

Yeah, for sure relaxed performance has really taken the life of its own now. I like the term neurodiverse really, and it excites me as something developed for just a community that can expand and grow. I think that's something really special about the autistic community and for people to experience the arts where they couldn't before and where they would be denied at the door.

Jack Hawk (16:38):

To answer your question, my friend Ricky Enz, who works out of Calgary, talked about it in an interview we did for a relaxed performance project I helped on called Access Activators. They're an autistic, relaxed performance consultant and one of the few, definitely one of the earliest players, and building a lot of the movement we talk about now. Anyway, they talked about how relaxed performance didn't just open up an opportunity to be an audience member, it also created a job and a career path for them and it connected them to a community and a network. It's slowly creating a self-sustained growth for neurodiverse and disabled people.

Jack Hawk (17:16):

I think that's one of the good things to think about when talking about relaxed performance and you know, how it benefits me too. I didn't know I would have the opportunity to voice any of this or have autonomy in things like this or how I enter spaces. It does feel like I get some level of authority on my own life, both in audience spaces and the work behind the scenes. Also it was kind of a relief, like when you come home to something. I've maybe forcibly relaxed every space I've ever been in, I'm super stubborn as a person. When I worked retail, I would always have a tangle toy around my knuckles and I would use it while cashing people out. It's funny how even something so minor can be so disruptive to people. The movement, the noise, and I would get unsolicited advice or looks or whatever. That's just a small example of the many ways just existing as disabled person is disruptive, but something that seems harmless. Finding the methodology and techniques that has been formed around relaxed performance was really satisfying for that reason. I was like, oh, that makes sense. Why isn't this just how it is all the time? You know what I mean? I think it's really changed the way I interact with art.

Ramya Amuthan (18:35):

Okay, so you mentioned this example of the small idea of disruption. My question is, because we're starting to understand, if we open up our minds a little, we're starting to understand that everybody wants relaxed spaces in some way or another... Like during the pandemic, we're at home, I'm doing a job now which I never imagined I'd be able to do from home being on radio and having equipment and being able to tell people, "Sorry, I'm video off today." The accommodations are there, we're capable of doing it. It just feels like it takes forever. Why is that? What are some of the things that we're overcoming, is it just because we refuse to change?

Jack Hawk (19:25):

I mean, it's a good question. This is stuff that has always existed. In fact, Zoom used to be very used in the autistic community way before a pandemic days because like I said, a lot of autistic people, we live half our lives online, basically. I remember Zoom being used like basically ever since it existed and being used in the way it is now. It's not so much that people aren't doing it, it's just that the greater mainstream has to catch up. I think the pandemic forced a lot of people into situations where they normally wouldn't have to think about it or make those accommodations. I mean, most of the time when I talk about this stuff, people are just relieved and they're like, huh, it's actually not a big deal if I need to like lay down right now or if I need to like sit on the floor right now, for example. If you're talking about in person stuff as well.

Jack Hawk (20:24):

It's a good question. I don't necessarily know if I have the answer... I think it's all there and it's all happening, it's just that sometimes I think people... There's the social pressure to perform the way they think they need to perform and there's a level of ability that's expected of one another. It's a cultural thing.

Ramya Amuthan (20:50):

Exactly. There's always that initial resistance, because this is the way... timed hours of the day, things like that. There's not really flex written into the job title.

Jack Hawk (21:00):


Ramya Amuthan (21:01):


Jack Hawk (21:02):

No, but most people perform better when they have the opportunity to navigate and have autonomy.

Ramya Amuthan (21:11):

Hundred percent. The thing is, communication, I find is huge. I could spend hours thinking, oh gosh, I have a headache if only I could turn my camera off, without actually voicing that. But as soon as you voice it, like you said, people are like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, no, that's fine." There is even internally, sometimes, that resistance. I'm going to go back to when you used the word authority in your own life, and that's something that is a bit of a learning curve, I find.

Jack Hawk (21:41):

For sure.

Ramya Amuthan (21:43):

Going back to Tangled, the people that you work with are your friends, you consider them your friends. Can you explain the worth of that kind of a work life feel for yourself?

Jack Hawk (21:54):

Yeah. How do you explain something that's so... I don't know. I mean, I think most marginalized people, we spend our lives bumping into so many barriers that we hardly have the time to think about all the possibilities of our lives. Working somewhere that's invested in me and also provides me a space to be human and create meaningful relationships has been pretty life changing in that essence. It's opened my mind to a lot of... what kind of relationships and boundaries I can have. It's funny, because I had a major surgery a couple months ago and the Tangled staff were some of the first people I sent a hospital selfie to. That's something I would've thought of as pretty nerdy or not very punk a few years ago, having so many relationships that are happening in my workplace. But when you're all invested in the same thing, it's hard for it not to happen.

Jack Hawk (22:53):

I have autistic disconnect, I'm very dry, sarcastic, smooth in practice, but when I go home I ruminate over everything and I dissect and I work through self talk and I play and experiment. I think working with my friends and ultimately also people who are all invested in one another has really given me space to works with [inaudible 00:23:16] and what isn't. Also it's nice because I've definitely made mistakes in my job before, like there are a lot of new challenges and things I never done before and it never has once ever felt like, oh, you didn't do this well enough or things like that. It's always just been like, oh well here's what we can learn from it and let's see what we can do, like a healthy kind of relationship.

Jack Hawk (23:41):

I just find it hard to describe it. It's such a fantastic opportunity. Sometimes it's just like, we're all in the office and we're drinking med-dosed coffee and just talking about the movement or working through problems together. I think you kind of have to have a certain investment in one another in order to also provide for the community well, because we always have to be communicating and we have to exhibit healthy disabled relationships in order to kind of put it into our work.

Ramya Amuthan (24:20):

The thing is, the needs of everybody are always changing. I'm used to having opinions about coworkers or just impressions of like, okay, this person's the reliable one, they will always show up on time or this or that. But I feel like that comes with the workplace culture. It's not necessarily the attitude that you have to have about work. You can all have challenges all the time.

Jack Hawk (24:47):

A hundred percent.

Ramya Amuthan (24:47):

You have challenges too.

Jack Hawk (24:50):

Yeah. Always. You kind of just put them together in like a... it becomes not a big deal once you realize it's not a big deal, you know what I mean? Once you just figure out how to navigate it. At Tangled, we're not really that strict about, for example, you don't like coming in on the dot or things like that. I think because we're all invested things just kind of come together because then less of it being an anxiety, it just becomes something we do rather than like, oh my God, I need to come in because what if my boss [inaudible 00:25:28] or blah, blah, blah. It's like, oh, why don't I come in so I can help Heidi with this. There's no anxiety, I think that's kind of the bigger part of it for me. What has really shifted my ability to perform as a worker actually, because it never feels like I'm on pins and needles, which basically every other job I've definitely felt like.

Ramya Amuthan (25:53):

That's interesting too, because you're not just talking about how it makes you feel, but it also has increased your productivity or you feel more at ease working because-

Jack Hawk (26:03):

Oh, a hundred percent.

Ramya Amuthan (26:04):

Stress levels.

Jack Hawk (26:05):

Yeah. I definitely think... I mean behind the scenes, we are always so busy and juggling so many things at once, but I think because we work really well as a team and we are pretty good at like, oh, this week I just can't do it, I'm in pain. Then, okay, how about I pick it up and then maybe two weeks down the line, okay, let me help you with this. I think the division of power is kind of the big thing as well, and that's why I think it is good when you work with your friends, as long as you're in a healthy dynamic with that, because there's never really any stress that catastrophe is going to happen at any moment. You know what I mean?

Ramya Amuthan (26:48):

Jack, before I get to a final thought from you, I just want to say thank you so much for chatting with me today, for giving us the opportunity at Radio LUMI to hear from you. I think a lot of the things that you're describing and being so generous sharing your own experiences and thoughts, it's just so helpful. It's really mind opening for anybody who's hearing and especially for myself when I hear some of the concepts that I think, yeah, I thought it was just me. It's wonderful.

Ramya Amuthan (27:20):

We have some incredible conversations and art experiences lined up during the Luminato Festival this year, and some of the great highlights are being put up on Radio LUMI for us to talk about. Anything in particular that you're looking forward to or want to shut out?

Jack Hawk (27:35):

I'm pretty excited. I'm so excited to engage with arts again. It feels like a dry year of arts just because we're all suffering. Not to shout out things already happened, but I really liked the Cook Lab thing. I'm excited for all the G20 stuff as well. Maybe that's like off topic, but I moved to Toronto when I was 18 and everyone started talking about G20 and I was like, what's that? I'm pretty psyched to hear the first hand education about it. But yeah, just looking forward to all that you're putting on and the continued work that Luminato is doing with the Access Advisory, I'm also excited about.

Ramya Amuthan (28:14):

I'm excited about that too. I think it doesn't feel like as much of a distance now that I've spoken to you, but it is really exciting and a lot more learning for all of us. Jack thank you so much and hopefully we can chat soon.

Jack Hawk (28:27):

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, and the opportunity.

Ramya Amuthan (28:30):

We were hearing from Jack Hawk, the outreach coordinator at Tangled Art + Disability. Also a member of Luminato's Access Advisory Committee. You're listening to Radio LUMI on ISO.FM. I'm Ramya Amuthan, one of your hosts.

 *Transcript created by Rev.