San Jose Artist With Cerebral Palsy Gets First Solo Exhibition

Amazing often takes time.

Take, for example, the hours and hours Don Ryker spends creating a single one of his works of art.

For just one of his animal portraits Ryker, who has Cerebral Palsy, will spend somewhere between 12-15 hours painting. Because his disability makes it difficult for him to control his hands and feet, Ryker paints with a brush that is attached to a construction helmet held to his head by a Velcro strap.

An assistant helps the 31-year-old Ryker by mixing paints, moving the canvas, and changing brushes but the art is all Ryker.

And it's amazing.

But amazing, after all, is nothing new to Ryker. His mother, Andrea Bowers, says she and Ryker's father always did what they could to put their son in a position to succeed. Ryker, though, was the one who made it happen.

Using determination, and some creative engineering, as a young person Ryker was able to play baseball, mow the lawn, and even be a part of his high school's marching band.

"We were very proactive in making sure Don participated in everything," Bowers said. "We just had to figure out how."

It wasn't until one of his teachers suggested painting, though, that Ryker struck upon his real passion. He recently graduated with a degree in art from San Jose City College and is having his first, solo exhibition. In the lobby of the Ameriprise Financial offices in downtown San Jose, more than thirty of Ryker's paintings adorn the walls.

"I'm excited for people to see my work," Ryker said. "And to buy it."

A typical Ryker painting will sell for more than $1,000 and he has sold a handful during the exhibition. He says it has inspired him to continue honing his craft and producing more.

Though he has accomplished so much, Ryker does not consider himself to be an advocate for the disabled. He would rather leave that to others. Ryker says he would simply like to be an example to those with (and without) disabilities of what a person in a wheelchair is capable of.

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