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Looking at the big picture

Effective communication requires proficient listening and speaking skills. For some individuals, interpreting concepts is a difficult task. That’s where one of Georgia Trend Magazine’s 40 Under 40, Brittany Curry, ’11, enters the picture—one of illustrations that she provides to help clarify messaging from one party to another.

“I never had any art classes,” said the liberal studies major. “What I do is not about art. It's about communication. It was my liberal arts training that taught me how to listen, ask the right questions and think about complex problems from multiple standpoints. I am able to put these ideas together and turn them into pictures. Georgia College taught me how to actively listen.” 

Brittany Curry, '11, illustrates a speaker and an audience.

Curry knows the frustration of not being able to decipher thoughts or ideas. She struggled with writing a paper while at Georgia College, which took her two years to complete postponing her graduation date.

“I was taking it so seriously, but I couldn't seem to produce the capstone project in paper and paragraph format,” she said. “At the time I did not know the power of visuals in helping to organize thoughts and concepts."

Then, her lifelong tendency to draw and sketch what was going on around her resurfaced in 2012 when she attended the Toronto Summer Institute on Inclusion.

“It awoke my love for doodling and drawing,” said Curry. “I saw graphic facilitation being applied to processes and communication.”

Three years later, Curry used her talent at Georgia College when she illustrated the high points of President Steve Dorman’s State of the University address in 2015, and later with the Office of ENGAGE and during Constitution Week.

Curry, who launched her own business, InkyBrittany, in 2015, is active in the developmental disability advocacy community around the state of Georgia. Serving as the executive director of Oconee Area Citizen Advocacy from 2012 to 2016, she now sits on the board of directors of Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy, and says about a third of her work each month is in continuing to support self-advocates and their families by using visuals in their planning meetings to help people see a big picture of what is possible in the future.

“My drawings build bridges anywhere that people are trying to come together to get on the same page,” said Curry. “It’s about having the ability to make a big impact on many people in a fun, cool and engaging way. It helps people's voices be heard, It makes the invisible visible."

According to Curry, graphic facilitation has been used to help people with disabilities move out of institutions and to find homes. Last year, she worked with an advocacy group in Kentucky doing some visioning work. The organization was trying to transition six people out of the facility to live on their own. 

Brittany Curry, '11

“One woman used color copies of the envisioning work we did,” said Curry. “The people that were not really listening to her finally got it. So, she was finally able to move out into her own place. To see that level of impact makes me not want to do anything less than that.”

And so, Curry continues to help build a community around people who have been segregated and disenfranchised because of being labeled with a disability.

“People who live comfortable lives see a different side of the world when they are invited to become personally involved with someone who is vulnerable and living on thin ice," she said. "All the volunteer programs and the tax-funded disability services in the world won't help lighten the load for people with disabilities if ordinary people are not willing to personally take up these struggles and do something to change it locally."                                                

Although Curry is swift with her drawings, there is a lot of preparation that goes into each illustration. For each day that she’s not graphic recording, Curry is spending at least one day to prepare for that session.

“I look at the agenda to find out who’s speaking,” she said. “I design a lot of it in my head before I go, but I leave it open enough to let the live conversation create the content.”

Curry says that many people think they can’t draw, so when she teaches workshops on graphic facilitation, they spend the first hour on the concept behind visual thinking.

“I see what combination of skills it is, and its abilities that a lot of people have, but they just don’t give permission from themselves to do it,” she said. “A lot of them say, ‘I can’t draw.’ They are terrified of being judged. I tell them that this is not about being good or right.”

The rule is to keep the drawings simple and fun and not to overthink them, and she tries to instill these ideas in others.

“Before we even pick up the tools, I talk about an invisible seatbelt we wear—the seatbelt of self-doubt,” Curry said. “People don’t realize they have it. You can’t do anything until you take it off. There’s no expectation. There’s no judgment. There’s just permission.”

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