Michael Cameron, a featured artist for Audiences Unlimited’s inclusion mural, was living his
best life as a studio artist in Chicago. Or so he thought. A traumatic brain injury—the result of a
fall on a patch of ice—changed all that. “I have partial paralysis,” he said. “I had to learn how to
write, talk, walk, speak, and create all over again.”

And while Michael’s dominant hand was affected by the fall, the artistic side of his brain
remained unharmed. A move home to Fort Wayne to live with his sister put Michael in touch
with Turnstone—and more recently—Audiences Unlimited (AUI).

“I was familiar with AUI,” he said, “since my sister has worked in long-term care facilities that
host AUI’s performing artists for over 30 years. She even knew Lillian Embick, AUI’s founder.” So
when the arts program director at Turnstone emailed Michael about AUI’s mural project and
asked if he would be interested, the answer was a definite “Yes!”

In fact, it was through Turnstone’s arts programming that Michael learned to paint in the first
place. As a self-taught painter and featured artist for AUI’s inclusion mural project, Michael is
venturing outside his comfort zone, both figuratively and literally. “I have a bachelor’s degree in
fine arts (BFA),” said Michael, “but my degree is in photography. I never even took a painting
class in college.”

And while Michael isn’t used to working outside, he’s excited about the change of scenery. “I’m
actually venturing outdoors,” he said. “It’s very important to me to be in the community and to
work in the community. I chose to work on the silhouette in the mural that features someone with Down Syndrome,” he said. “I can identify with them, because they’ve had to acclimate, too.”

Through the mural project, Michael hopes that people will rethink their ideas about those with
disabilities. “I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with people who have disabilities,” he said. “I love
painting, getting outdoors, having fun, and expressing myself.”

Perhaps Michael’s best life isn’t so far in the past after all.

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