The Local Exchange: Minnesota artist overcomes TBI to share her passion with others
BLAINE, MN. (Northern News Now) - Throughout her life, Amy Kulseth has had a passion for painting.
“It’s always been kind of my outlet or therapy,” Kulseth said. “Whenever I’ve been stressed out it’s like, ‘Amy, go sit and color. Go draw a picture.’”
The Minnesota native started art at a very young age, entered every contest in school, and even went to college for it.
Her pieces are often inspired by northern Minnesota.
“Just like art for me as a young child, going out in nature was always my favorite thing, and fishing with my dad,” Kulseth said. “I had a tadpole fishing box, and my nickname is ‘Tadpole’ because I carried that box everywhere.”
Kulseth has owned her art business full-time for nearly eight years, but if you knew her as a young kid, you might have questioned if that was even possible.
Kulseth certainly had her doubts.
“As an infant, we don’t really know how old I was, but at six months we found out that I had suffered from a TBI,” she said. “It caused some brain damage on the right side of my brain which left my left side with a condition called hemiparesis, and it’s weakness of the left side.”
The condition affects her whole body but mostly cripples her left hand.
“I remember as a child thinking, ‘It’s going to be hard to get a job when I get older. I can’t do the things that other kids do. I can’t type on a computer,’” Kulseth said.
Originally worried about the future, Kulseth turned those anxieties into determination.
“What was instilled in me at a very young age because I had to go to physical therapy many days a week was, ‘Amy, if someone tells you you can’t do something, prove them wrong,’” she said.
Thanks to a lot of hard work, Kulseth played soccer, went fishing, and even ran a half marathon.
What she lacked in her left hand, Kulseth made up for in her right.
“I was given an ability in my right hand that obviously is taking me somewhere now, and you start to see all of these blessings from something that may not have been seen as a blessing as a child,” she said.
Kulseth’s abilities have improved.
She can only paint with her right hand, but that is all she needs.
Because art proved to be a fruitful therapy for her, Kulseth wanted to share that with others.
She now volunteers her time and supplies to teach art lessons at assisted living and memory care facilities; reigniting creativity some may have lost over time.
“When you’re doing that you learn about people, you learn about their life, where they came from, how long they were married, how many kids they have, and I think that is the best part of it, the most rewarding,” she said.
Kulseth knows what it is like to feel overlooked when you are differently abled.
She hopes by sharing her love of painting, everyone can find growth and healing no matter their age.
“If you persevere enough, you’ll find a way to get through it,” Kulseth said. “You’ll find a way to do whatever you need to do.”
Kulseth draws much of her inspiration from northern Minnesota scenery.
In fact, she has a whole painting series with a Minnesota twist.
Kulseth has completed more than 150 paintings that are part of her “SOTA Series.”
She paints the landscape and then hides the outline of the state of Minnesota somewhere inside.
Sometimes it is an obvious outline, but others are trickier to find.
Kulseth said these paintings are a fun way to give a nod to the state she calls home and loves so dearly.
If there is a small business that has left a big impact on your community, you can nominate them for this segment by sending an email to Kendall Jarboe at KJarboe@NorthernNewsNow.com.
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