Legally blind 13-year-old displays 'artwork beyond her years' during Ypsilanti Heritage Festival
Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com
Visitors of the Heritage Festival will be able to see one-of-a-kind artwork by a 13-year-old resident of Belleville who paints from her heart.
Lauren was diagnosed at birth with Nystagmus, a condition of involuntary eye movement, and is considered legally blind, although she is able to make out objects that are close.
But her condition hasn’t kept her from expressing her creativity. Lauren has been painting and drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon, said her grandmother, Pat Mills of Ypsilanti.
“She paints women, she paints cities, flowers and portraits,” Pat said. “She can paint anything and her art is amazing.”
Pat applied for a booth at the Heritage Festival because she wants people to know how talented her granddaughter is, she said.
“She just became a teenager and is legally blind, but her artwork is beyond her years,” Pat said.
“With this condition she is able to see things that we can’t see. We see things one way and Lauren sees them another, which is what makes her art what it is.”
Lauren brought 10 pieces to display at the festival. Her favorite painting and one of her most recent sits closest to her and prints of the cubism-style woman are spread out on the table in front of her.
“I like painting because it lets me be in control of things,” Lauren said. “No one tells me what to paint. I get to decide that myself.”
Courtesy of Pat Mills.
Lauren said she’s been painting since she was little, but it wasn’t until she was asked to paint on stage at the Charles H. Wright Museum in April that her dedication to her work really began.
Now Lauren paints one piece a week on average, she said.
“Lately I’ve even been doing one painting a day,” Lauren said. “Maybe it’ll be something I do professionally someday. I feel blessed to be able to paint and it’s exciting to be here this weekend.”
Lauren lives with her mother, Leah Mills, and is a student at Peterson-Warren Academy in Wayne County. She said that even though she gets attached to her work sometimes, she is willing to sell it and share it with others.
"She’s a little entrepreneur and I think that, combined with her talent, will take her far in life," Pat said.
She said that a lot of the ideas for her artwork come from her imagination or even from dreams. She said she feels lucky that her eye condition has not gotten in the way of her ability to paint.
Pat said that she hopes people learn from Lauren and her talent.
“Even when people are handicapped, in whatever way, it doesn’t mean they are any different or any less,” Pat said. “I believe that everyone has their own gift and Lauren is the perfect example of that.”
The Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, located in Riverside Park, will be open 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.