Painting from a Wheelchair



Finally!  The neurotypical world made more than reasonable accommodations.  They made a special effort to include the mobility-challenged into their arena, and I had a blast.  Yep.  I sat out in a field and painted.  No sidewalk for me next to an outbuilding and parking lot — ostracized from other artists.

“How did you get out there with the dragonflies and frogs?  With the trees and grasses?”  I hear you asking me.  I know, I know.  Right?

When I first read of the joint venture between the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SMLC) and the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan (PAAWM) to host an Art Walk/Paint Out event at the Wau-Ke-Na Preserve, I thought I wish I could participate.  With unusual boldness, I dashed off an email to the president of the PAAWM asking if it would be a barrier-free event all the while expecting the usual reply that the paths would be difficult terrain for a wheelchair.  Instead, he said, “Yes, please come.”

“Yes, please come?”  Were these words right there on my screen?  I couldn’t believe it.  I was being included.  No, more than that, I was invited – please, come.  These words swam before my eyes and a smile spread from cheek to cheek.  I was going to participate in an outdoor painting event – really participate – in the fields – with other artists.

The SMLC (who are dedicated to land conservation, duh) had come up with a solution to the barrier problem:  drive your vehicle to a site, dump your stuff, drive your vehicle to a designated parking lot.  Now, before you start thinking it is incongruous for the preserve to allow a vehicle onto their pristine lands, it was all very carefully planned to keep a minimum impact on the earth.

In the past, I have encountered other land conservation groups who were almost hostile to letting people use the land.  Not this group, not this past summer.  While being dedicated to protecting nature (a/k/a fields, birds, wildflowers), at the same time, they designed the Preserve to include human nature as part of the natural environment.  (After all, what is the point of land conservancy if no one can enjoy it?)

Their balanced approach revealed a respect for God’s creation (which does include us human beings after all).  Rather than promulgating a negative attitude about mankind’s relationship with nature and her beauty, the Preserve developed designated lanes, mostly narrow pathways of mown grass, for walkers — which they let me use in a most unique way.  These passages are walkable for the able-bodied but dangerous and impassable for a wheelchair.

There I was, smiling all the while as my husband drove me, my wheelchair, and all the paraphernalia associated with plein air painting to a location of my choice.  After unloading, my husband moved my mobility van to the parking lot.  (Thank you, Dear.)

What a joy!  I was just another artist painting in a field.  😀




Published by

Rose Wolfe (Living Free with disAbilities)

Let's get to the elephant first: I have myotonic dystrophy which defines my physical limitations, but it does not define me. Without the distraction of physical activities, I have found my passions: (1) Encouraging others to live more fully with fun, faith, and hope; (2) finding freedom in oil painting; (3) writing about my experiences; and (4) encouraging others to live more passionately. It is my belief that every person lives with at least one disability - for impairments are not limited to those with chronic illnesses. Many neurotypical people are psychological architects who have constructed enclosures in which they trap themselves. Mindsets, attitudes, and perceptions are fluid realities. Many of us have forgotten that it is possible how to live beyond our disabilities. Life may have challenges but faith and hope are within reach. I have made my choice: I am LivingFreeWithdisAbilities.

15 thoughts on “Painting from a Wheelchair”

  1. How wonderful.  I’m so happy for you.  sarah

    From: The rePurposed Life To: Sent: Thursday, October 5, 2017 7:53 PM Subject: [New post] Painting from a Wheelchair #yiv9380431892 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9380431892 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9380431892 a.yiv9380431892primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9380431892 a.yiv9380431892primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9380431892 a.yiv9380431892primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9380431892 a.yiv9380431892primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9380431892 | Rose Wolfe (Living Free with disAbilities) posted: ” Finally!  The neurotypical world made more than reasonable accommodations.  They made a special effort to include the mobility-challenged into their arena, and I had a blast.  Yep.  I sat out in a field and painted.  No sidewalk for me next to a” | |

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Neurotypical and able bodied people have no idea what joy inclusion can bring to a person who has met more than their share of closed doors with a polite or not so polite “I’m sorry.”
    It might seem like sharing the obvious, but it’s positive way to help people understand decision from an unfamiliar point of view. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if they understood the long-reaching impact of their decision. (I suspect it all started as a practical solution to helping able-bodied artists get their gear to remote place – since this was an art walk/art sale event.) However, in the end, they ended up helping me and others like me participate. To give them credit, they were an inclusive two groups. Small decisions has large consequences.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The accessibility might have started for a different reason. By showing a more compelling reason to have the vehicle access, it will help add to the discussion should they decide to ban vehicles in the future or simply narrow the conditions for allowing vehicle access.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is wonderful to read, Rose. Woo hoo! Must have been brilliant & brings even deeper meaning to plein art. So happy for you. Thanks so much for sharing your joy & a big cheer to your husband too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is absolutely wonderful, Rose. So happy for you & definitely brings a deeper meaning to plein art. Thank you for for sharing your joy & big cheer to your husband too. I hope you we’ll get to see some of your art from the day.
    (Ps. Sorry if I’ve posted twice, my first comment disappeared!)

    Liked by 1 person

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