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A Brush with Hope After Injury: Mariam’s Story

“With the brush in my mouth, the marks I make are my response to the world that I see.”

Mariam Pare holds a paintbrush in her mouth as she works on a stunning celebrity portrait on canvas. She has long brown hair and light skin.

As an innocent bystander, Mariam Pare sustained a paralyzing spinal cord injury due to gun violence at 20 years old.

Pursuing an art degree at the time of her injury, Mariam found her trajectory abruptly disrupted. As she returned to college as an artist with a disability, one of her professors helped her to rediscover her creative expression within the new limitations of her body. Mariam began to engage in art again post-injury as a mouth-painter.

Mariam says her professor showed her the value in allowing students like her to approach education—and art—with high expectations of themselves and their work, just like their peers living without disabilities:

“I didn’t even have expectations of myself that were very high, and the fact that she had such high expectations of me—it helped me understand that I was equal to every other student.”

Mariam Pare

Today, Mariam is a proud member of Mouth & Foot Painting Artists (MFPA). Her artworks are breathtaking, dynamic, and often experimental, part of a body of work that extends beyond mouth-painting to multimedia projects, video and digital works, and installation art—all informed by her personal experiences living with a disability.​ She’s received recognition for her skill in portraiture from celebrities including Pierce Brosnan and George Takei.

“I often collaborate with other artists on projects aimed at making positive social change. My studio is a playground, a laboratory; a place for me to sort out my ideas, explore my imagination.”

Mariam works on a stunning large-scale portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat based on a small black and white photograph. The portrait features vivid shades of blue, purple, and green. Mariam holds a paintbrush in her mouth as she works with long brown hair and light skin.

Behind the scenes, there’s another less-visible aspect of her journey: navigating the financial challenges of life with paralysis.

Mariam first approached Help Hope Live in the summer of 2021 to fundraise for critical out-of-pocket medical and related expenses to assist with mobility, accessibility, and health. Her community raised $7,000 within a few short months.

Today, Mariam continues to fundraise for essential expenses. She credits her Help Hope Live campaign as the reason she can avoid taking on needless debt and financial hardship as she strives for greater independence and access.

“I hope the true impact of all your contributions will show through in all the art I will create, and I hope to find an opportunity to pay it forward.”

Seated in a black power chair, Mariam grins at a table where five children paint brightly-colored art on a white table using their mouths to paint just like she does. Mariam has long brown hair and light skin.

To see Mariam’s work and artistic process in action, follow her on Instagram @mariampare. You can subscribe to her Campaign Page for fundraising updates.

Written by Shannon Shensky