Disabilities shouldn’t stop a person from doing things. That’s a message both spoken and lived by artist Marrie Bottelson at Partnership Resources, Inc. PRI in St. Louis Park.
“If you have a disability, you can do whatever you want, as long as you put your heart and mind to it,” said Bottelson, who has Athetoid cerebral palsy, a disability that causes involuntary movements, or lack of muscle control.
As she has said, so she has done. Bottelson worked with staff at PRI to start a business, create a website, and sell her artwork. Her canvas drawn creations are applied to items such as keychains, T-shirts, magnets and bags to sell. Often painting animals and nature scenes, she also makes cards. The nonprofit program provides a studio, equipment, paint and brushes and Bottelson supplies the canvas material. Finished products are sold at local art shows and online.
This vital connection to the day program, its studio and staff have been a bedrock foundation in Bottelson’s life. PRI direct program specialist Stephanie Bendiske-Gullion said the art Bottelson creates is almost a type of meditation for her. “This is her job,” said Bendiske-Gullion. “She is so focused.”
Bottelson said some people have a hard time understanding her when she talks, and the arts allow her to express how she feels in a different way.
As her own guardian and an advocate for others, Bottelson served for three years on the Minnesota Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities. She’s also a graduate of the council’s Partners in Policymaking program, which teaches techniques to partner with elected officials to change the way people with disabilities live, work and are educated.
PRI Program Director Marc Skaug said Bottelson has worked for years to replace her frustration with a world that does not always accept people who are different or have disabilities. “She channels that energy into positive pursuits, her artwork, and positive action,” said Skaug. As an advocate for herself and her friends, she has been a key player in many legislative letter-writing campaigns and rallies at the State Capitol.
At the local level, Bottelson is speaking at high schools about disability issues in 2018. She’s talking to transition students with disabilities about life after graduation. “Marrie is going to help these kids, teach them to be patient and move on, that there are things in life that you can do,” said Bendiske-Gullion.