Calamus-Wheatland K-12 art teacher Brooke Balichek truly believes art is for everyone.
Take for example, her student, 15-year-old Morgan Wells.
At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Morgan had one of her pieces selected to be exhibited in a national show.
She even sold the piece, for $65.
While it would be a tremendous honor for any high school student to have his or her art chosen to be displayed in a highly selective national show, it’s an especially impressive distinction for Morgan.
After all, she is visually impaired.
The daughter of Ronnie and Carrie Wells, of Calamus, was born with optic nerve dysplasia, an underdevelopment of the optic nerves, which can render vision problems in one or both eyes.
And, as it does in Morgan’s case, it can include limited vision and uncontrolled eye movements.
Balichek said she has been Morgan’s art teacher since she was in kindergarten, and always has admired the way she has embraced art.
“Morgan brings an amount of joy to art that is just astounding,” Balichek said with a smile. “She’s always been very willing to try anything.”
Morgan received a certificate — both in print and in Braille — from the 27th annual APH InSights Art Competition that her piece had been accepted for exhibition in the annual APH InSights Art Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky, sponsored by the American Printing House for the Blind.
Morgan’s submission was titled “Self Portrait of a Blind Person,” which she created using stencil with tempera paint and chalk pastels.
This is not the first time she has received this honor from the competition for sight-impaired students, or the first time she has sold one of her pieces.
The first time was during the 2016-2017 school year.
“She sold her first one for $25,” Balichek related. “So, this time, I told her, ‘Price it high.’ The fact that she was able to achieve this two years in a row is a pretty big deal. It’s a highly selective process.”
Morgan said her love of drawing came pretty naturally to her, and her favorite medium is working with pastels.
Morgan said she can see “a little bit up close.” She and Balichek have worked out processes that enable her to express herself through her art in spite of her impairment.
“Art has always been something she’s done, and we do it together,” Balichek said. “It’s been an experience figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. Although she has challenges, Morgan works through them very well. They don’t stop her.
“Every student can do it … even if it takes a little initiative to develop your skills.”
Morgan said art isn’t something anyone should fear. It’s subjective; for those who feel discouraged, she has three words of advice.
“Just keep trying,” Morgan noted. “Don’t give up. For me, it’s stress-relief. I like the way it makes me feel. It was so exciting to hear that someone bought my art. I kept wondering, ‘Is it going to get sold?’ I even wondered that in my sleep.
“It makes me feel proud, and just so happy.”