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BOONE LIFE: MU art student with disability expresses self in art

Monday, December 26, 2011 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:39 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 28, 2011

COLUMBIA — Her days take more planning than those of most people. She needs to  see one of her five caregivers three times a day. She spends her nights in a chair instead of a bed. Other than that, Allison Reinhart, 26, is not much different than any other person.

"I just don't want people to look at me and my story and how I get around and think that's the way that those people do that stuff," said Reinhart, an art student at MU.

She was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a hereditary neuromuscular disease, when she was 16 months old. Reinhart lived in the suburbs of St. Louis until moving to Columbia two years ago.

"I was living with my family and in a situation that I have pretty much been in my whole life," Reinhart said of her time in St. Louis, where her mother was her main caregiver. "I really had no autonomy, very little real independence. Anytime I wanted to get out of the house or do anything, I had to rely on family members.

"I knew I had to get out of the living situation I was in."

Reinhart defined the difference between her life in St. Louis and her life in Columbia as "drastic."

"Here I can open my door whenever I want. I can get outside," she said. "There are sidewalks here that run everywhere, basically. And I can get anywhere downtown that I want to. You can get practically anything you need here: food, clothing, anything, meet your friends all by yourself."

While appreciating the very basic elements of daily life, Reinhart translates her past experiences and understanding of her condition into her art. Art has always been a part of Reinhart’s life.

"I really never thought about doing anything else," she said.

"I think I try to call attention to how destructive and damaging perfectionism can be," she said. "Autonomy, perfectionism, and what tragedy really is," as well as the definition of what it is to be a human, are among the topics she explores in her art.

Art is a means to express herself, she said. "I like to, maybe, remind people that we are all human. We all have needs. We all have desires."


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