Challenging times drive some to despair. For Emily Marra, challenging times she endured as a student with dyslexia and other learning differences drove her to draw. And sculpt. And paint.
“I had such a hard time understanding reading, writing, math, and even what people were saying so when I was younger it [art] was a way to express myself without writing or talking, then it turned into a love,” Marra said. “I really do believe that if you practice enough at something you can get better.”
She channels the trials and triumphs into her artistry. Artistry that was showcased last month as part of a virtual exhibition for the REED Charitable Foundation’s inaugural “Virtual Dyslexia Experience & Gala: The Artists.” Staged during Dyslexia Awareness Month, selections from dyslexic artists were at the heart of the inaugural fundraiser on October 24 for the REED (Reading Education Endowment for Dyslexia) Charitable Foundation. The organization educates, supports, and empowers the dyslexic community in Central Florida and beyond.
Beacon art teachers shared with Marra the foundation’s call for artists. She submitted three pieces.
“Emerald Waters,” a glass relief, features a Koi fish swimming through rippling water, showing, Marra noted, “that with persistence you can get through rough times.”
“The Astronaut” features a space explorer in search of a new home as she wistfully gazes back at a dying Earth.
Lastly, “Girl in the Hall,” an ink drawing, is probably the most on the nose of Marra’s works in peeking into the artist’s life. It features a girl curled up in the back of what looks like a hallway seen through the vertigo of learning disabilities.
“I made this work wanting to convey the feeling of what it’s like not getting the proper help in school when you need it and I thought it was perfect for the show,” she said.
The REED Foundation agreed, snapping up all three works.
“I was on cloud nine! I couldn’t believe it, I was so excited,” Marra said of the outcome. “It felt so surreal like a dream and I still feels that way.”
In a way, the REED Foundation selecting her work for the exhibition was both a culmination and confirmation of the artist path on which she has long tread.
“I always gravitated towards art and especially drawing,” Marra said. “Can’t really pinpoint when I started but I drew so much [that] I started to get better and better.”
By high school, she was taking art classes. The classes cemented that art was her thing.
In addition to dyslexia, Marra has dyscalculia and an auditory processing disorder. She credits her trio of learning differences with nurturing a greater interest in art.
“Yes, it can be hard, but with persistence it can get better. In making art, I lose myself and I don’t think about my learning differences.”