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Greatest Person: A Disabled Artist Strives to Help Others Like Himself

Paul Weller’s severe disabilities have not stopped him from becoming an artist or helping others like himself.

An artist views things a little differently--and Paul Weller certainly has a unique perspective on the world around him.

Born with severe physical impairments, Weller has seen his share of challenges in life. Yet, the 29-year-old who loves art and music is striving to help others like himself.

His non-profit organization, Glass Expressions by Paul, will donate 10 percent of its profits to help other disabled people find ways to express themselves creatively.

In light of his mission, Weller was recently honored by the Howard County Commission on Disabilities with the Individual Leadership Award for his efforts to give back to the community.

Weller was humble when speaking about receiving the award and said simply, “Thanks for noticing me.”

Jean Weller said her son was born with disabilities due to complications at birth. His brain was deprived of oxygen during delivery and the trauma left him with Cerebral Palsy, auditory processing difficulties and cortical visual impairment.

Her son can’t recognize shapes or even faces, but he is extremely good at memorization and can easily recognize voices and pictures, she said. 

“He doesn’t really perceive his disability either,” she said. “What he perceives are emotions, voices and the way people treat him.”

In early 2009, Weller discovered glass fusing during an art therapy session.

His art teacher, Barbra Quinn, introduced him to the process of creating colorful combinations of glass pieces by melting colored shards together in a pottery kiln. As it turned out, Paul not only really enjoyed it-- he was good at it, too.

His introduction to glass fusing did wonders for Weller's self esteem, said his mother. Before he began working with glass, her son didn’t really have an identity, she said, but after a while, he could call himself an artist.

“It just started showing us what the possibilities are,” she said. “He can present himself now, and take pride in what he does.”

In starting his art career, his family sought help through Shared Support MD Inc., an agency that helps those with disabilities, which provided Paul with a support broker, Pam Beck.

Weller got help writing business plans, budgets--even installing a home studio and by May 2010, Glass Expressions by Paul officially became incorporated as a 501 (c)3.

Beck, who nominated Weller for the Individual Leadership Award, said she has been working with Weller since late 2009, helping him find additional resources and acting as a liaison between him and the state. She said his mission to help others discover a creative outlet as he did, motivated her to nominate him.

“I thought it was worthy of noting,” she said. “The more we send that message out to people, the more they might look at people with disabilities a little differently.”

Weller said it makes him feel good when people say they like his work. “I hope it makes them feel happy,” he said.

He said he also hopes that his work will allow him to help others to find something they love to do, as he has.

"I like to encourage other people who have challenges to explore ways that they can use their talents," he said during the video sermon in April 2010 he made with his pastor, Andy Lunt, from Glen Mar United Methodist Church. “It’s fun, because I make colored designs and pieces of glass. I never know how it will turn out, but when it’s finished, it’s beautiful."

This story will be featured as a Greatest Person of the Day on the Huffington Post. For other Greatest Person features, see the Huffington Post page.

Danna Walker (Editor) November 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM
This is an amazing and heartening story about a wonderful young man who is making such a contribution.
Scott Sofinowski February 29, 2012 at 01:33 AM
David Pecor for a Pulitzer!
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