‘The greatest art is working with people. Just like a painting, there
are never two people who
are alike,’ Oswald said.
. OSWALD, from Page 14
mother and attention to detail from her father.
After switching her major in college from art to sociology, Oswald came to realize that she had a love for working with people with disabilities. She traveled to Boston and New York City to help with social justice and change and eventually landed in Seattle.
Specifically, she found her passion in supporting legislation for accommodations for those with disabilities on college campuses. Through this, Oswald felt engaged in the world in ways that art was not able to give her.
“The greatest art is working with people. Just like a painting, there are never two people who are alike,” Oswald said.
When Oswald started looking at what gave her joy in life, she realized it was her art and activism. She wanted to do something that would further employment for people with disabilities and looked at what she had to work with. She decided to start an art gallery in her home to show and sell work from people with disabilities.
The range of artists shown in the gallery all provide a way of looking at art that both those with and without vision can appreciate.
Esref Armagan was the first artist Oswald reached out to for the gallery. Entirely without sight, he paints with his fingers, “in a way that makes you realize that sight is overrated,” Oswald said.
He is able to paint with perspective, which even sighted artists struggle with.
Doris Carlton previously had sight and worked with porcelain; today, she transfers that point of view to her paintings.
Robert Koval focuses on landscape paintings, and his art picks up the dance of light, something that those with low vision are attracted to.
Another featured artist, Jim Stevens, recently was given a Special Recognition Award at the national judging for the Veterans Creative Arts Festival for one of his drawings.
Oswald noted that each year, she sees more galleries featuring artists with disabilities, and many of the artists whose work she displays have won awards.
Oswald began showing her own work in the gallery after being prompted by her daughter.
“My mom studied art in college, but while I was growing up, her art was often left in the garage, virtually forgotten,” said Crystal Oswald-Herold, Barbara’s daughter. “I think that having her work in the gallery adds beauty and a personal touch to her already-stunning collection.”
Oswald admits she had what she calls “mother’s syndrome,” the belief that her art wasn’t good enough, which is something her own mother used to struggle with as an artist. Just as she encouraged her mother that her art was beautiful, Oswald’s daughter encouraged her.
One of her pieces is a photograph of a waterfall and rainbow. Oswald took the photo after inferring there was a waterfall there because of the sensations of the sun and spray she felt.
“The beauty is in the experience of doing the art. For me, the joy is in imagining what that warm sun and spray felt like,” she said. “Creating the art is what touches the soul.”
After establishing the gallery, Oswald found that she needed a way to attract people to see it. It was then that she turned her home into a bed-and-breakfast, in addition to the gallery.
She has made the place very welcoming. An added fireplace, insulated walls and three redecorated rooms all add to the charm of Casa de Esperanza. Each guest room has a name: the Helen Keller Room, the Magnolia Room and the Orchid Room.
A few months ago, Oswald decided to be more open with her bed-and-breakfast. Previously, most guests came because they were family or friends. As a blind business owner, she has been cautious about letting just anyone into her home.
In addition, she didn’t advertise much because she doesn’t naturally like to talk about herself. She decided not to hold back anymore and has begun getting the word out about Casa de Esperanza.
As she opens up her home for others to stay at, her overall goal is to help people. She said she wants to live life fearlessly, and she looks forward to giving guests a good experience while helping shed light on the beauty artists with disabilities are able to offer.
Those who know her personally agree that she is an inspirational woman who looks past disabilities.
“Barbara’s efforts identify the individual first, not the disability,” said Stevens, one of the artists whose work is featured in Casa de Esperanza. “Her purpose has always struck me as being aimed at the rest of the person. Her focus always seems to be on the possibilities within us.”
Oswald is glad to be able to help improve the lives of people with disabilities, noting that it’s a huge change because it’s internal. “The more empowered we are and claim what is true, the more we can create change. It’s taken me a life journey to get to that realization, but I’m here,” she said.
For more information, visit www.casaesperanza. us.