Work of disabled Metro Detroit artist becomes more prolific during pandemic

Local artist hailed for overcoming challenges

Story of triumph by local artist
Story of triumph by local artist

DETROIT – Local 4 News is bringing viewers the story of artistic achievement in the face of COVID-19.

It is the story of the award winning artist behind many special creations. Her ability to paint was another thing shutdown during the pandemic.

The artist managed to overcome that new challenge and those around her are amazed at what she’s creating now.

Mary Jo Cassidy’s work is shown all over the nation. Her ability to paint came to a halt throughout the pandemic when her non-profit studio was forced to close its doors. 

Cassidy has developmental delays but in her isolation she found a new zeal for painting. You will see that pent up desire to create has come back with a vengeance and those around her are amazed at what she’s turning out.

“It was not easy coming back with all that stuff. People dying,” said Cassidy.

At Paint a Miracle in Rochester Hills the award winning artist is back at work.

After a long absence, a hibernation of sorts during the COVID-19 lockdown when the 55-year-old was separated from her heart everyday of the situation felt duplicated by the isolation of her developmental delays and place on the autism spectrum.

Art is her favorite way to communicate and when she couldn’t get to her classes she absorbed the pain and misery of the world around her with no way to express herself.

She cannot read and will never live independently, but art is her freedom.

It is the great leveling of the playing field because with a brush in her hand Cassidy is the master of all she surveys.

But now she is finally back in her studio at the non-profit that is refuge. Her safe place. Her muse.

And those who have watched Cassidy in her seeming savant like grasp of art are amazed by what they’re seeing.

Her paintings seem simple, some might say I could do that, but could you with the depth of the eyes?

There’s something about the eyes that go to the soul of her talent and while she seems fairly unaware of the sheer immense depth of her talent those around her see it very clearly.

“She is painting more prolifically than she has in the past. And I think it is just because she needs that comfort,” said Lynn Reardon of Paint A Miracle.

Read more: Community headlines from around Michigan


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Natasha Dado is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit.