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MILWAUKEE – This Saturday, Islands of Brilliance will be hosting two 90-minute workshops for neurodiverse community members and their families at the Racine Creative Center, 524 Main St., Suite 311. Workshops will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The event costs $12.50 per person.

These workshops are designed for families to be able to work together to experience the abilities and talents of their neurodiverse family member(s) in a safe and supportive environment. Participants will utilize different activities such as free-form drawing, group storytelling and instructor-led art projects.

Using art and design as tools of intervention, Islands of Brilliance facilitates moments that teach important technical skills to students while teaching them practical social and emotional skills. Successful communication skills are also an essential element in the lives of those who are neurodivergent. These programs help to bring teachable moments that will improve the everyday lives of individuals who function differently from how the world is set up.

We’re excited to reach families throughout the state in person with our creative programming for autistic individuals. We’ve been working with children and young adults since 2012 and have been able to unlock the potential of so many. We regularly hear from parents who say we’ve had a profound impact on their child’s life.

Mark Fairbanks, co-founder and executive director of Islands of Brilliance

Sandbox@ is the mobile program that will be coming to both Racine and Kenosha along with eight other cities in Wisconsin. Other cities include Milwaukee, Waukesha, West Bend, Wisconsin Dells, Madison, Green Bay, Sheboygan, and Superior.

The program will introduce people within the autistic community, both individuals on the spectrum and their families, Islands of Brilliance’s three virtual Sandbox programs: Smactivities, Natterdays and Doodle Lounge.

Islands of Brilliance in Kenosha and other cities

On Tuesday, June 28th, Islands of Brilliance will be presented at Lemon Street Gallery, 4601 Sheridan Road, in Kenosha.

For those near the Wisconsin Dells, Islands of Brilliance Sandbox@ will be coming to the Kalahari Resort on Saturday, April 30, at 10:25 a.m. for the Autism Society of Wisconsin State Conference.

Watch for more dates to be announced in the coming months.

Funding for the Sandbox@ program was made possible through grants from:

  • Wispact Foundation
  • Green Bay Packers Foundation
  • La Crosse Community Foundation
  • Schneider National Foundation
  • Bader Philanthropies
  • We Energies Foundation

Special Grant from NEA

Islands of Brilliance and UW-Milwaukee received a grant in January for close to $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for the purpose of studying the efficacy of utilizing “art and design to prepare those on the autism spectrum for future employment,” according to a news release. Young adults who are neurodiverse are estimated to have national unemployment rates between 50% and 85%.

The NEA grant is renewable for five years and allows Islands of Brilliance to partner with professors and researchers from UW-M to create the Autism Brilliance Lab for Entrepreneurship (ABLE). Through ABLE, researchers will study whether teaching children and young adults creative design skills can help prepare them for the workforce. The research team will also investigate how employers can better prepare neurotypical work environments for autistic individuals.

Islands of Brilliance news release

“The grant is significant because academic research that examines the impact of Islands of Brilliance’s use of creativity as an intervention for autistic individuals has been a long-term goal for our organization,” says Fairbanks. “Working with Dr. Nathaniel Stern and Dr. Celeste Campos-Castillo at UW-M is an incredible opportunity, one that will benefit the community we serve and forever alter the trajectory of our organization.”

About Islands of Brilliance

Islands of Brilliance (IOB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides unique learning and social engagement opportunities for neurodiverse students through a person-centered approach that allows individual interests and capabilities to flourish.

Our programming, rooted in art, design and STEM-based curriculum, helps children and young adults on the autism spectrum learn valuable technical skills, while practicing critical social and emotional learning competencies in a supported environment. Our education team partners with parents, educators and support agencies to identify the appropriate programming mix to meet each student’s needs and goals.

From foundational workshops featuring 1:1 mentorship for students beginning at age eight to our more rigorous Digital Academy program, we offer a robust menu of programs that help build the technical and social skills needed to thrive, whether it be in the workplace or actively engaged in the community. For more information, visit

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