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Different Strokes

 Studio Art sophomore Rachel Salcido navigates intersectionality between disability and art
Rachel Salcido UT student and artist

While attending high school in El Paso, Texas, Rachel Salcido zeroed in on The University of Texas at Austin as their first choice for college. They had done well at Montwood High School and had earned credit for two years’ worth of college coursework from their AP courses.

Now a sophomore majoring in studio art, Salcido is taking all upper division courses and has recently been accepted into UT’s Bridging Disciplines Program in Museum Studies. During their time at UT, Salcido has worked on an assortment of art projects they created while holding paintbrushes and drawing tools in their mouth. Diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a congenital condition affecting the joints of the body, Salcido has learned how to master this technique while crafting their art with various types of mediums.

artwork of panda bears
Artwork by Rachel Salcido

Salcido has had a lifelong interest in art but did not primarily focus on it during high school because there were only three art classes plus AP Art. They were able to sell some of their artwork, however, at local art fairs.

“For now, since I’m still learning so much, materially and conceptually, I think I’m using this time to experiment and try to find that style,” Salcido says. “I do find myself gravitating more towards like impressionistic types of style; I like the brushwork that comes with that.”

Salcido notes that most of what they communicate about their disability comes through their artwork. They are also focusing on the intersectionality between being a person with disabilities, Hispanic, a first-generation college student and living in the university environment.

Artwork by Rachel Salcido
Artwork by Rachel Salcido

Salcido reports that initially they had concerns around accommodations, but staff in Disability and Access (D&A) were very helpful with those accommodations and finding housing. Thanks to the helpful staff at D&A, Salcido learned that they could live with their attendant (their mother) in the residence hall—something they weren’t quite sure was even possible. Together, Salcido and their mother are navigating college life and discovering the varying viewpoints and misconceptions others have about disabled people.

“You know, sometimes people assume a lot of things about disabled people—that we have certain limitations, that we’re not willing to work— which is not necessarily the case,” Salcido says. “So, just keeping that in mind, but also remembering just how far we can go, is important.”

Artwork by Rachel Salcido
Artwork by Rachel Salcido

Salcido is grateful to their professors in the Art Department. In a printmaking class this semester, one of the tools used was a sharp double-ended needle. Their instructor, Enrique Figueredo, sourced the same tool, only it was sharp on one end. And during their first semester, they took a drawing course, taught by Alexandre Pèpin, that involved many materials such as oil-based pastels and charcoal. Because Salcido was unable to put those in their mouth, Pèpin had the woodshop instructor make special tools for Salcido to use. That positive experience, they note, really set the stage for their time at UT.

 “I am very thankful for the kind of climate UT has,” Salcido says. “I think coming here has been such a wonderful choice. I feel very welcome. I really feel like I fit in.”