Tony is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. He has limited use of his arms and legs and relies on a wheelchair for mobility. He often opts to communicate through a device which effectively “speaks” the words that Tony types. “The device helps me communicate when I need extra time to put my words together,” he added.
Despite his physical limitations, Tony is a self-determined man who lives independently in the community, although he admits that he sometimes struggles with the way he is perceived. “The hardest part about living with Cerebral Palsy is the way people state at me,” Tony said. “People assume I do not have a brain,” he said. “They think I am cognitively impaired because I cannot speak clearly or walk like they do. But it’s not true.” Tony has pushed through the physical limitations set forth by his diagnosis to forge a successful career as an artist. “It’s calming for me when I am painting,” Tony said. “I enjoy it.” He often draws and paints architectural scenes set near water, sometimes complete with a few sea monsters and damsels in distress for a humorous touch. Tony’s joy and passion for his craft shines through in his work, and he has sold thousands of dollars worth of paintings. “Creating art of this caliber is not easy,” said Goodwill Columbus Resident Artist Cody Miller. “But Tony has managed to accomplish it.”
Cody has known Tony for almost 20 years, first meeting him at United Cerebral Palsy of Central Ohio, which merged with Goodwill Columbus in 2010. When the two met, Tony painted while lying on a floor mat, propping himself up with one arm for hours. “I started seeing how rough it was on his body,” Cody said. “He told me he was hurting a lot, because of the position of his body on the mat.” Today, the 51-year-old artist paints at a table custom-built by Cody. The table, adorned with tiger stripes in homage to Tony’s beloved Cincinnati Bengals, allows him to remain upright in his chair while he creates art.
Even after nearly two decades, Cody is continually impressed by Tony’s work. “His sense of design is different from many of the artists we serve here,” he said. “In fact, Tony’s work has been a source of inspiration for other artists.” Tony’s influence can be seen in the art studio and gallery, as architectural scenes similar to the ones he creates pepper the tapestry of other artists’ work in progress. “It makes me feel good,” Tony said, reflecting on the influence he’s had on other artists. “I am happy Goodwill provides a place for me to paint,” Tony said. “There are not a lot of places for people like me to paint.”
When he is not creating art, Tony is employed in the community as a greeter at Kroger. Like many people his age, Tony has his sights set on the next stage of his life. “I look forward to retirement and more time for my painting,” he said. Tony makes his own rules in life and is shaping his own future, refusing to be pigeonholed by a disability. Tony was named one of Goodwill Columbus's 2013 Extraordinary People Honorees. Watch the video!
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