The University of Texas at Austin
  • Student finds calling in studio art after accident

    By Leslie Lyon
    Leslie Lyon
    Published: May 15, 2008
    Student

    “Having a real refrigerator? Like, a full-sized refrigerator? It’s gonna be HUUUGE! It’s gonna change everything for me,” says studio art senior Wes Holloway.

    After years of having to use a dorm-sized refrigerator, “I can have wine and beer now…if I want to,” he says smiling, wearing a T-shirt with a cartoon of a smiling vitamin and grinning cupcake holding hands. He’s shifting around in his chair at the Texas Expresso, hair rumpled as only an art student can fashion.

    “No, but seriously,” he says, “it really is gonna change everything for me.”

    Standard-size refrigerator ownership is just the beginning of what graduation this May from The University of Texas at Austin will mean to Holloway. This spring is the start of a long series of old but new experiences for Holloway. He expects to face a lot of the same challenges most graduates face, making the transition from living in “the UT bubble” as he puts it, into the world to find a job that will pay him for his art. But he also has some other major, life-transforming decisions to consider, like going from a manual to automatic wheelchair, using a keypad on his new house instead of a traditional lock and driving for the first time in six years.

    Holloway and his older brother Travis, also a University of Texas at Austin graduate, grew up in Katy, Texas, just outside Houston. Both excelled in athletics and art, and their parents supported their endeavors. Holloway pursued drafting and swimming, but despite his natural talent in art, he enrolled as a natural science major. He continued to draw, sketch and doodle, but seriously pursuing art as a study and as a career didn’t look like a possibility.

    That all changed after an accident at a party his freshman year, in spring 2003, left Holloway paralyzed from the chest down.

    After several weeks at Brackenridge Hospital, Holloway returned home to Katy to recover. While in physical therapy, it came up that he knew how to draw well and had won awards. His therapists wanted to see some of his work. Holloway asked one of his therapists for a sheet of paper and a pencil and went off into a room by himself to draw, to see if he could still create art in his own style as he did before the accident. Holloway is unable to move his hands, but he figured out he could thread a pencil or paintbrush through his hand. Not only could he still draw, but he found out he could draw in his own style. The first thing he drew was a portrait of his brother, Travis.

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