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Mark and Margaret Fairbanks.

Theatrical Mustang: Islands of Brilliance, Spaces of Belonging

Woodzick talks to the nonprofit leaders about meeting each other through theatre, founding an inclusive organization, and empowering autistic and neurodivergent individuals.

American Theatre is proud to be the venue for Theatrical Mustang, an independently produced podcast from actor-writer-activist Woodzick. Each month they bring listeners interviews with unbridled talent and cultural trailblazers from across the country.

On this month’s episode, Woodzick chats with Mark and Margaret Fairbanks, the co-founders of Islands of Brilliance. This Wisconsin-based nonprofit uses digital art and creativity to connect with and empower autistic and neurodivergent individuals. Mark and Margaret’s creative and professional backgrounds are firmly rooted in theatre. Their conversation centers on how to cultivate neurodivergent joy and creativity.

Co-founder and executive director Mark Fairbanks leads a devoted team of education and design professionals at Islands of Brilliance. Since the launch of the program in fall 2012, he has guided the organization, along with his wife Margaret, through continual evolution and growth in order to improve the lives of autistic individuals of all ages, their families, and the communities they live in. IOB has pioneered innovative methodologies rooted in the use of special interests, imagination, and creative technologies that are the subject of a research study being conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Michigan State University funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. The inspiration for the program originates with his youngest son Harry, who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum just before the age of three. His TEDx talk “13 Years on an Island” traces the personal story behind the creation of Islands of Brilliance. Twitter and Instagram: @markfairbanks | LinkedIn: markfairbanks

Co-founder and chief education officer Margaret Fairbanks has been a special education teacher for the past 10-plus years after earning her Master’s in Special Education from University of Minnesota. Her life as a special educator truly began when her son Harry was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified) at the age of 3. In her current role, Margaret juggles many different tasks, from the IOB finances, to working with the IOB education team, to supporting local schools as an autism consultant, to writing blog posts, and even working with families to navigate life as a member of the autistic community. But the most important thing she does is help families find hope and a sense of what a happy tomorrow can look like.

Download this episode here. The Theatrical Mustang podcast is edited by Travis Rosemarie Curhart-Fischbach. Music by The Morgens using Citizen DJ Project, Library of Congress, National Jukebox.

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