Artist Channels Ability Through Her Disability

Posted at 11:10 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 00:10:12-05

21-year-old artist Grace Goad takes her work seriously. Her paintings are on display in exhibitions across Nashville and sometimes the rest of the country.

She uses bright colors and different media like canvas, oils, watercolor, even silk to achieve the perfect piece. Looking at their depth and contrast you'd never guess Grace has Autism.

For her, speaking is difficult. Sometimes she can say a word or phrase but mostly she just smiles as she works.

"Green, yes I want green," she said to her artist mentor Emily McGrew who helped her pour some more green paint into her palette.

At 21 years old Grace's energy isn't used on speaking. Instead it's channeled to a medium where even a thousand words wouldn't do it justice.

"We've actually sold a lot of art tiles of this one," Grace's mom Leisa Hammett gestured to a painting on the wall at a local business, "and this is my favorite."

Leisa said Grace found her talent at just four years old. And she says ever since then Grace always calls the shots.

"Are you sure Grace you don't want to paint one more color?" Emily asked Grace at their last session.

"No all done," Grace replied.

With Grace in charge the art is purely her own. Even when it seems a little off kilter, Leisa said Grace has a vision in mind.

"She insisted on painting silver acrylic on top of ink on top of silk," Leisa remembered, "these are things that don't go together as far as media... and boom you know now that's on the cover of a magazine."

Grace's work is displayed at regular shows across Nashville. She sells prints, cards and tiles decorated with her work to people across the country.

Leisa says the art connects people who otherwise are worlds apart.

"Some people that might have these prejudices, and believe me they are out there, can see the beauty of this art  and it builds a bridge," Leisa said.

After 15 successful years in business with her daughter, she  wants to broaden the scope and open a studio for others with disabilities. Her vision is a space that brings local artisans to mentor students in any creative field that peaks their interest. And maybe they can start their own businesses using the template Leisa and Grace have created.

Because with art it's not about what you can't do.

"This is about celebrating the gifts and the potential and the beauty," Leisa said.

It's about what you can.