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Navigating D.C. the Path of Art and Accessibility

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Grace Fisher sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C

Setting Out with a Heart Full of Hopes

Every stroke of my mouth stick1 on canvas, every note I play, they’re parts of the story that led me to the steps of Washington D.C. for the VSA Emerging Young Artists Award Ceremony. It wasn’t just about the recognition for my art; it was a marker of how far I’ve come, both as an artist and as a person who refuses to be defined by disability.

The Realities of Traveling Unconventionally

Traveling from my home in Santa Barbara to D.C. was an adventure, to say the least. Imagine setting up an ICU unit across the country in an unfamiliar place. I require breathing assistance using a ventilator at nighttime and a diaphragm pacer during the day. The thought of all of this is anxiety-inducing but I just submit to the process and have to trust that my team will take care of the logistics.  However, letting go of control remains an ongoing effort. Check out this Instagram Reel I made of the trip! https://www.instagram.com/p/C4MZ-ibp-fM/?next=%2F

My family was my rock throughout all of this. I am so grateful for my parents and team who have supported me along the way. It’s an ironic convenience that both my parents are Physical Therapists and have the expertise and knowledge for transfers and my daily care. They didn’t just help with the logistics; they were there to share the highs and the laughter, making the trip more enjoyable and every bit as memorable as the destination itself. My younger sister Emily flew out from London, which was perhaps my favorite part of the trip! I’m so blessed.

Embracing D.C.’s Stories and My Own

This trip to Washington D.C. held a profound significance for me, marking my second visit to the city—the first being during my childhood, before I was affected by acute flaccid myelitis, which led to paralysis. Returning to D.C. with my family allowed me to see the city through a new lens, not just as a tourist, but as an individual who, despite significant physical challenges, continues to embrace life’s journeys. It was a testament to the fact that life’s obstacles could be overcome with determination and the support of loved ones.

In Washington D.C., I couldn’t help but feel part of the city’s vast history and the living, breathing story it tells. Those buildings and monuments felt like silent friends who had seen it all and stood tall through time.I was particularly impressed with the overall accessibility., noting that it was more accommodating than other cities they had visited in the past. Accessible Ubers were a huge help in navigating the city!

Art, Celebration, and Solidarity

Meeting other young artists like me at the ceremony was amazing. There were 15 artists, including me, who were recognized with the Kennedy Center Emerging Young Artist Award. We all had disabilities ranging from Autism to Chronic Illnesses, and the type of art was super diverse including jewelry making, painting, sculpture and more. We each had our own hurdles to get there, but for those few days, we were all just artists, taking in the excitement and sharing our worlds through the work we’d created.

The Necessity of Inclusion

This trip made me see the importance of real, true accessibility. It’s about more than just ramps and door widths; it’s about feeling welcome and having the same chance to experience everything as everyone else does, without the extra hassle.

Looking back on my trip, I see it as a chapter in what I hope will be a long story of progress for anyone who faces physical challenges in life. A big thanks to everyone who’s been a part of my journey. Your support means the world and fuels my determination to keep breaking down barriers.

I can’t wait to share more of my journey, more art, and more of the breakthroughs that lie ahead. If you’re curious about my work or want to be part of this adventure, check out the Grace Fisher Foundation and gracefishercreative.com. Let’s make the journey together!

1A mouth stick is a type of assistive device designed for individuals who have limited or no use of their hands and arms, such as quadriplegics. Grace uses a mouth stick to hold her brush while painting.

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