Barbara Oswald appreciates the gifts she has been given. As a blind artist, activist and business owner, she faces challenges but stays focused on the positives. She is passionate about art, cooking and home decorating and decided to put those gifts to use.
Four years ago, she opened a bed-and-breakfast in her Mount Baker neighborhood, in addition to the art gallery she created a year earlier. She calls it Casa de Esperanza, “House of Hope.”
Her home, at 3317 S. Hanford St., is a 1930s art deco, mission-style hacienda, according to her web-site, and it has three guest rooms. In the living area, her gallery features the work of artists with disabilities.
Casa de Esperanza was inspired by Oswald’s life journey with art and activism.
Oswald was born a 2-pound, premature baby. She was diagnosed with an eye disease, retinopathy of prematurity, which normally results in total blindness. However, she has a small remainder of vision in one eye.
She grew up given the same expectations as any child would; her parents treated her like she was no different from anyone else. With a mentally disabled older brother, Oswald was expected to help out a lot, despite her disability. For this, Oswald said she is grateful because she appreciates the resilience and adaptability she has built from facing challenges.
While growing up, she realized that she could see things well when they were at the tip of her nose, looking closely at images. Since this was the only way she was able to see, she found that she needed to use all of her senses to obtain a clear appreciation of an image. Her own desire to be an artist came from the love of all the beauty that was around her.
“I’m not sure what came first: the little girl that could see from the tip of her nose, or the artist. I think they developed each other,” Oswald said.
Oswald’s mother was an artist, and her father worked as a sound-effects producer for movies. She
believes she inherited the passion for art from her Barbara Oswald with her self-portrait, which hangs in the gallery of Casa de Esperanza. Photo by . OSWALD, Page 16 Teddy eddy Toyama