The Story of a Courageous Artist

Article excerpt

An Interview with Bill Freer

George Hoyt, a friend with whom I write [you have read his work in previous issues of the Journal], called one day and said, "I have a gift for you." He then went on to explain with great excitement about an artist who was physically challenged and uses the sun and a magnifying glass to burn beautiful patterns into wood. George shared the art and the story of Bill Freer, who is in a wheelchair as a result of spina bifida.

I asked George to interview Bill for this issue of the Journal...to reflect his personal story of being an artist, a person who is physically challenged, and a person who is definitely not handicapped.

George W. Hoyt is an electrician and Labor Union President in Newell, West Virginia. He is also a writer of Native American prayers, poetry, and short stories.

Ed.

GH: Now, if you will please tell us a little bit about yourself-your age, your bobbies, and your education.

BF: I'm 37. I graduated from high school. My hobbies are drawing pictures, watching movies, and going fishing.

GH: You mentioned a little earlier when we were talking about music ....

BF: I enjoy listening to music-I like all kinds of music.

GH: OK Tell us a little bit about your family-your brothers and sisters.

BF: I have seven brothers and one sister.

GH: Are you the oldest, youngest, midde?

BF: I'm the oldest.

GH:Can you tell us a story about your family that would give the readers an idea of what family means to you?

BF: Well, my family is about the best family you can have. They take me wherever I want to go, they give me things I need, and you couldn't ask for a better family.

GH: And do they live locally or are they spread out? Do they come to visit on holidays and reunions?

BF: Most of them are in the service and they come around for holidays, you know, and every once in awhile we will have a reunion.

GH: Could you tell us a little bit about your disability and how it has challenged you, and the gifts you have gotten out of it? A lot of people don't understand when someone who is physically challenged says, V have been gifted by this or gotten something out of this that I don't think I would normally have. " Can you tell us a little bit about that?

BF: Well, I can dress myself; I do basically everything myself. I can get in and out of vehicles by myself, you know, which some people aren't able to do. There's not much that stops me.

GH: What are the gifts you think you have gotten from this?

BF: Well, I don't know.

GH: Let me give you an example. They say people who have been blinded-they are gifted with a sense of feeling. They can sense things more than people who are sighted can. Do you think that your art isa gift to you that has given you patience and maybe a love for the beauty of things?

BF: Yes, yes. It calms me down if I am upset about something. I'll go and work on a picture just to get my frustrations out.

GH: Does the community provide adequate access to buildings and streets and sidewalks here?

BF: Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes it is kind of hard `cause there are a lot of people [when we go to the store] they take the handicap spots. We see them walking out of their vehicles, you know, real good and it's like why would they be parking in the handicap spot? Some of the stores are hard-some of the places in them are real narrow and it's hard to get through once in awhile.

GH: So if you had the opportunity to walk up to somebody who was using a handicap spot and knowing that they were NOT challenged or handicapped, in your words, and I would like to know exactly, what do you think you would say to them?

BF: I would ask them why they took that spot when they are nice and healthy and there are people that need to get up close to a place that are in a wheelchair and just ask them why they would have done something like that because it is not right to Lio. …