Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (photo by Ashley Hylbert)
I came across Grace Goad's work through her mother, Leisa Hammett...and I came across Leisa through Jen Lee's Indie Kindred Creative Community! I have connected with so many creatives through the Indie Kindred Community, and am so grateful and inspired by these individuals.
As you will see, Grace has autism, and her mother answered questions for her in this interview. I am so grateful that mothers like Leisa exist in this world - what special women both Leisa and Grace are. I don't usually do this, but I have decided to include Grace's bio here, so you can see all she has been able to do, with the help of her mother (her bio is rather amazing - you can see it at the end of this interview).
What does Creativity mean to you?
It is a part of who Grace is: To mix color in her choices of clothing, with details down to her socks, of course. To go to town on an iPad, or a box of markers or colored pencils on her mom’s to-do lists, refrigerator marker boards or the backs of her sketch books, on a kitchen bowl! Creations that boggle the mind with their ingenious color combinations. How does she do that? How is she seeing differently to come up with these combinations? I can only say that it is an innate ability, familial-genetic ability, enhanced by a neurodiverse mind.
She went through a phase where she would go upstairs, and by memory, grab all her books that had a page with similar color schemes or cartoonish characters all posed in some similar way. I’d find them open and stacked upon one another. Just another example of the creative mystery of her mind and how important it is not to under-estimate her.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
Grace just shows up. She does work with mentors. They present her with options. And sometimes those options take her in new directions. The mentor holds space, provides the materials and studio and dispenses the paint, in some cases demonstrates a technique. The rest is all Grace. It is curious, delightful, and fun to see what will become the end product.
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (Watercolor Tryptic)
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
After a year of typical, rigorous autism interventions, such as speech, behavioral, occupational and educational therapies, I realized that she was missing out of the typical childhood joys of making art, dancing, making music. So, I sought out to find arts therapists. She was 32 months when she was diagnosed with moderately severe autism. She was four when she began working with these art therapists in addition to her other therapies. Right away the art therapist and I saw the same keen eye for composition and a sense of color, both always way beyond her chronological years.
What turns you on creatively?
Just the chance to “GO TO ART-PAINTBRUSH!” She asks to go to her mentor’s studio multiple times a week. Once she finally graduates from all her schooling, I hope to afford to send her an additional time each week. For now, she colors at home and plays on her iPad. Our condo is small and lacks space for painting. I would like to someday find a nonprofit social enterprise partner so that Nashville area artists like Grace would have studio space they could share with other artists to create, exhibit, and sell their work. So, that if she and others wanted to make art everyday, they’d have a space and supportive and inclusive community environment.
How does criticism affect you?
Oblivious. Grace is a pure, pure spirit. No. Ego. She creates because that is who she is. She totally lives in the present moment and does not care if another likes, purchases, etc.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
It has been many years since Grace created in clay. If we were able to create an inclusive nonprofit social enterprise supporting artists with disAbilities, I would want her and other artists to be exposed to clay and a variety of media by visiting artists and artists in residency.
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (Green Jackson Pollack)
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
Sure. Collaboration is fun. But we are careful to allow Grace complete control. She chooses the colors. It’s all about hers. *Early on, I was advised and could see and experienced the wisdom that her work had to be totally hers for authenticity and believability. Unfortunately, there are naysayers that get hung up on the label of disAbility and do not presume competence. First rule: presume competence. You can’t always tell from the outside packaging in some instances and also inability to communicate does not mean inability to think, create, etc.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
She does work with mentors. Who present her with options. And sometimes those options take her in new directions. The mentor holds space, provides the materials and studio and dispenses the paint, in some cases demonstrates a technique. The rest is all Grace. It is curious, delightful, and fun to see what will become the end product.
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
Show up and be shown. She comes to the table and paints from someplace from within. It’s fascinating to see what ends up on the canvas, wood, or paper.
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (Curved Lines)
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
Yes! Facebook, Instagram, GraceGoad.com, and LeisaHammett.com. We like to take a break on straight promotion and share info about the disAbility and other passions in our lives. Share a fun or funny photo. A selfie. A creative take on a walk in the park. Show the art in process. The car being loaded for a show. The selection process for a show. Show cards being assembled. Grace delivering a new series of paintings or merchandise to a gallery.
It’s good and engaging to think outside of the box, and give folks a different way to see and understand the artist life.
Too many artists are making it too hard and ignoring the importance of engaging in the digital landscape. We’ve sold paintings through digital exposure. Millennials are said to be buying art almost all through digital means. (Wow!)
Think of it as another creative process. How can you create digitally to share your visual story? Yes, it’s work! But then we can choose to task or choose to meditate in our task at hand. To quote social media strategist Katja Presnal: “Social media is an ocean. Learn to swim.”
What is your typical day like?
That’s about to change when summer comes as Grace will turn 22 and will have “aged out” of all her public school programming. We are seeking work and job coaching and, yes, to continue making art.
Are you active in your local art community? If so, how do you help and support each other?
Grace was active in Tennessee Art League for about a year it provided a way for her to be amid the scene of Nashville’s 5th Avenue of the Arts. She is represented by one Nashville gallery, Shimai, Gallery of Contemporary Art and one West Coast: Spring Hollow Art Gallery & Studio. She shows around town several times a year in various locations. We have helped organize and curate several exhibitions featuring the works of other artists with autism and other disAbilities. For a year, I ran a social enterprise placing gallery quality art in high end apartment buildings. For one all the art was artists with disAbilities from around the world. We want to encourage other artists with disAbilities to be seen on an equal playing field. To have opportunities to create and exhibit! Much is stacked against them. We like to promote them and lead the charge through awareness. Many are gifted by the fact of their disAbility! They cannot take education, physical accessibility, opportunity, etc., for granted. We must knock down these barriers so that the world can see, buy, and enjoy their art, too!
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (Pink & Red Squares)
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
We believe in promoting Grace’s work for sales and autism awareness. Art is a window to the beauty and possibilities of people with disAbilities. Labels tend to stigmatize, create fear and prejudice. Art is that transformative bridge that can capture someone’s eye and heart and change their view of a person that society tends to marginalize because of their differences.
Does your creativity enable you to contribute to social work in some way?
Ditto, above. To inspire others to see beyond the label. To inspire others to see what is possible. To inspire parents to look for and celebrate the gifts and any and every age and stage. They are there! To inspire and create a way for other artists with disAbility to come to the table. For parents and teachers to see and groom a child’s talent into a future career. I cannot stress enough how important it is to recognize a child’s ability, give it weight. Know that it may be there because of the ability. Celebrate it! The world wants and needs it. That child, youth, adult needs that opportunity and affirmation of their artistic contribution to the world!
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at this very moment?
Music is actually a distraction as Grace, as a part of her autism, has difficulty processing more than one sense at a time.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Artist Lain York, also gallery director of Zeitgeist in Nashville mentored us early on about cataloging and numbering Grace’s work. When you purchase a Grace Goad original you will see handwritten on the back (where it will not damage the piece) www.GraceGoad.com title, 0163-14. She’s up to about that number of pieces that are for sale or have sold or are available for prints and the number following the hyphen is the year it was created.
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (Red Circles on Red)
Where can we find your art?
"Grace Walker Goad was diagnosed with moderately severe autism with intellectual disAbilities and severe speech/language disorder at just under age three, in 1997, and has been painting since she was four. Because autism subtly affects the muscle tone of portions of her grasp, her work is largely abstract. Yet, her advanced use of color and composition has been lauded and featured on the 2007 autism episode of ABC's "The View,", on Al Jazeera America, on the cover of The American Journal of Psychiatry, among other magazine covers, the cover of the book, Making Sense of Autism, and in The Art of Autism: 2012 Edition, as well as numerous local and national newspapers, magazines, and other television and online media, including The New York Times. Her work is also in the Tennessee Arts Commission's permanent artists' collection managed at the Tennessee State Museum.
She has exhibited in Washington, D.C., New York City's Soho District, Seattle, Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Massachusetts' Berkshires, and is represented by Spring Hollow Gallery and Studio in Ventura, California. In Nashville, her originals, notecards, prints, and tile series can be found at Shimai, Gallery of Contemporary Craft, on the ground of The Loveless Cafe, and The ArtAble Collection of Village Green Hills, and have also been feature in The Arts Company's holiday line and at the former Gallery One, and on Nashville's gallery row, downtown on 5th Avenue of the Arts, and Tennessee Art League, and also on the downtown Franklin Art Scene. Goad's originals are in the private collections of a number of individuals including NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, MD, in various departments of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and can be found online at GraceGoad.com and on Facebook: Grace Goad | Autism Art. Now a young adult, she lives in Nashville."
Embody Your Muse Creative Spotlight: Grace Goad (photo by Jerry Atnip)