February 24, 2023

Mikayla Creates Brilliant Art You Can Feel

A young painter finds success through self-directed services.

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Capturing the world she encounters with her sense of touch, Mikayla Forsey offers a fascinating angle on reality through her artwork. Though Mikayla was born blind and has other developmental disabilities, these challenges do not stop her from expressing herself through painting.

“I’ve done my artwork for a year and a half,” says Mikayla. “I am confident when I paint. I feel glad when I concentrate.”

Mikayla works with Lewiston-based artist Barbara Gray, who teaches her painting techniques. When she is learning a new stroke, Mikayla does “hand-over-hand” with Barbara guiding her movements. As she progresses, Mikayla is then able to paint on her own, relying on her muscle memory.

Mikayla’s art is tactile and often includes Braille elements. The textures of each stroke can be felt and reflect what Mikayla has encountered in nature. For example, Mikayla will go outside and feel the bark of a tree before painting one, adding dimensionality to her work.

Recently, Mikayla’s art was featured on the cover of Pathways Through the Dark, an anthology published by the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center highlighting writers, artists, and others impacted by vision impairment. In addition to her artwork on the cover, two other pieces by Mikayla are included within the book’s pages.

Mikayla has overcome health struggles and hospitalizations to live a dynamic life featuring a wide range of activities. She and her mother credit much of her success to their ability to self-direct services.

Person Centered Services connected the family to self-direction, which provides a budget for Mikayla to engage in funded activities of her choice. Care Coordinator Sue Laurito, who has worked with Mikayla for many years, ensures Mikayla can find the staff, resources, and programming that best suit her goals and needs.

“We explore and investigate what makes sense for Mikayla,” says Sue, who is honored to work with the young artist. “She is very determined. She knows what she wants and self-direction offers her those opportunities.”

Some of the many activities Mikayla participates in include piano, karate, Zumba, yoga, cooking, skiing, ice skating, and “beeper” baseball for the visually impaired. She also attends life skills classes and volunteers with Feedmore of WNY, packing meals for families in need.

“There would be no life without Sue Laurito,” says Mikayla, who credits her Care Coordinator for making all the activities she enjoys possible.

From February 10-March 25, 2023, Mikayla’s artwork will be on display in the Townsend Gallery on the First Floor of the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center. Her pieces are presented as part of the 12th Annual Artists of Color Exhibition, made possible through partnership with the Black Pioneers of Niagara Falls.

In April, Mikayla will speak about her accomplishments and experiences at the “Through Their Eyes” conference at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. The conference highlights personal perspectives from people with disabilities.

Previously, Mikayla was featured on the local news, including WGRZ and WKBW. Her story has been shared and picked up internationally, inspiring people across the planet. Person Centered Services is proud to connect Mikayla to resources that help her thrive and succeed as she pursues the life of her dreams.


Check out a fun video showcasing Mikayla’s talents and exuberant personality: