“Being visually impaired I have always had to come up with unique and creative ways to navigate through life. Whether it was how I was going to pass a class without seeing the board or how I will have a job without being able to drive, I have always used creative power to help me find solutions.”
Growing up with a visual impairment shaped and inspired RaeAnn’s lifelong artistic journey. Born legally blind, she lives with optic atrophy and cone/rod dystrophy caused by a rare genetic mutation. This leads to low vision and trouble differentiating colors. Growing up near Detroit, she was encouraged to pursue art by her mother. RaeAnn describes, “From a young age I was interested in the arts and it was something I was able to do despite my disability.” She received a full scholarship to Michigan State University from the Michigan Commission for the Blind, where she got her Bachelor's Degree in the Arts and Humanities.
After graduation, she started her career painting using acrylics on canvas. This all changed in 2016. While working as a civilian contractor for the United States Army in South Korea, she caught a virus that further declined her vision. RaeAnn tried to grieve this loss but her sadness and frustration led to an impasse, until one day she had a breakthrough. She began making abstract art: a new style that was not dictated by her visual capabilities. Utilizing high flow mediums like ink and watered down paints, she was able to express herself freely again.
RaeAnn usually starts a painting with a small bit of inspiration. She describes this as, “A thought, a feeling, a sensation, maybe it's the way the light is reflecting in the water, or the feeling of ascension and wanting to break through.” She then tries to embody that energy through color, composition, and movement, often sketching out a couple concepts and going forth intuitively from there. She loves the meditative quality of art, and notes that her work is fueled by coffee, sage, and loud music!
She is always thinking of what’s next for her art and career. Her overall goal is to build a career in art that can help support her family, including her young son. She details, “I want to be able to afford to take taxis and transportation so I can pursue more opportunities and be involved in my community.” She goes on to say, “If I were to make a steady income from ArtLifting it would profoundly impact my life in a positive way, not only in my artistic journey but in my journey for independence and self stability as a disabled woman.”
In addition to being an artist, RaeAnn is a teacher and advocate. She is a part of her town's arts council and frequently teaches classes at the local arts center for children. Over the years, RaeAnn has worked with a variety of different organizations that focus on arts accessibility among minority groups such as veterans, refugees, and those with disabilities. She is passionate about bringing accessibility to the arts, including working with other artists with disabilities and art educators to learn new and creative ways to bring inclusivity to the classroom through art. Her lifelong dream is to have a large studio to paint and teach in.
“Creating art has taught me patience, to trust the process, to believe in my worth, that if I can create an idea or imagine in my mind I can bring it into reality. Also, teaching others about creative expression is incredibly powerful.”
Prints by RaeAnn MacDonagh
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.