UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For someone who never thought she would succeed at painting, Taylor Bielecki has proven herself wrong and won a national award in the process.
Bielecki, a senior bachelor of fine arts candidate in the Penn State School of Visual Arts, is one of 15 students chosen by the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program. The program recognizes and showcases the work of emerging young artists with disabilities, ages 16-25, who are residing in the United States. Her artwork will be included in a yearlong nationally touring exhibition, and she will attend an all-expenses-paid professional development workshop in Washington, D.C., at the end of October.
“I don’t think it has sunken in yet. It’s hard to get used to all of this attention because I’m just always painting,” said a modest Bielecki, who “lives” in the studio and gets so engrossed in her work that she sometimes forgets to eat or check the clock.
As a child, Bielecki faced physical challenges that limited her mobility and required surgeries to allow her the ability to walk. Although she still has some trouble when she paints on the floor, she manages to work through the discomfort to produce her oil paintings. Despite the physicality of her discipline, according to Bielecki, the most difficult part of being an artist is not being able to say her own name. A speech impediment causes her to stammer at times and prevents her from verbally introducing herself.
“I can’t say my own name,” she explains. “When I meet people, I tell them ‘Hi! Can I show you my name?’ and hand them a card or show them on my phone. Then, I just let my artwork offer the answers.”