Do Good: Volunteering with Islands of Brilliance

Posted August 30, 2016 by swimcreative

This August, I had the privilege of spending each morning for one week volunteering with Islands of Brilliance during its first-ever Duluth workshop. Islands of Brilliance is a learning experience for kids and young adults ages eight to 19 on the Autism spectrum. Each student is paired with a designer or art director mentor from the local community to work on a project of their choosing using the Adobe Creative Cloud. Art supplies are also provided for hands-on creativity. All of the students’ project ideas were heavily influenced by their areas of passion.

My mentee, Ian, walked in on the first morning passionate about creating a poster for his dad based on the 70s TV show, Land of the Lost. Throughout the course of the weeklong workshop, Ian taught me all about the show from the storyline to the actors’ and creators’ names to everything he knew about the production of the show—which involved a blue screen, claymation and miniature dioramas. He also knew all about the differences between the original TV show and the 2009 movie remake with Will Ferrell. (The original TV show is far superior, in his opinion.)


This was only Ian’s second time using Photoshop, so he used the workshop to dig deeper into the software and learn several new tools and techniques. Right away, I was impressed by his intuition for composition, color and image selection. After I introduced him to a couple of techniques, some basic and others slightly more complex, he was well on his way to creating a unique poster; one that beautifully displayed his creative talents and his extensive knowledge of the show. After Ian finished his poster, he wanted to make a claymation dinosaur like the ones that were used in the show.


As most of us know, learning new things doesn’t come without challenges, especially when it comes to new software or new materials. Frustration arose when Ian realized that not every step of the process looked exactly the way he wanted. But what was especially inspiring was his persistence. Throughout the workshop, I tried to instill in Ian a sense of accomplishment in the process and in his problem-solving abilities. In turn, I was reminded of how important those things are for myself in my own work.

A huge thanks to Swim’s CEO, Patrice, for inviting me to participate in this workshop, to HTK Marketing for hosting us in their beautiful space, and to Mark, Margaret and Harry of Islands of Brilliance for bringing this experience to Duluth—and to Ian for being so awesome!

I’m also excited that Islands of Brilliance has promised to return to Duluth again next year. For more information about how you can become a mentor or enroll your child in a workshop, visit their website. For other Autism-related resources, news and events, head over to




All photos by Rendulich Photography.

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