Mississippi State University is known for its diverse fine arts program, but one artist is taking a completely new approach to painting. Through MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability and its EXPRESS Yourself Art! program, Kendrell Daniels has been given an opportunity to express himself like never before.
Daniels is a 19-year-old MSU freshman and was born without arms. Throughout the years, Daniels has grown to adapt to his situation by learning to use his feet in innovative ways. He uses his feet for almost everything: using his phone, playing video games, brushing his teeth and eating. Daniels has never let his disability hinder him in any way and during his sophomore year of high school, he tried something completely new.
According to their website, The EXPRESS (EXperiencing Painting as Recreation & Express the Spirit within YourSelf) Yourself Art! program at the T.K. Martin Center is used primarily for students with cerebral palsy who cannot physically make art. However, with the use of trackers, they can express how they feel by utilizing someone else to bring their artistic vision to life. The term "tracker" was coined by Tim Lefens and refers to a someone helping achieve a disabled person’s true vision through various tracking techniques.
"This art program is for individuals who are very physically trapped in a body," said Judy Duncan, a tracker and case manager for EXPRESS Yourself Art!.
However, Daniels is an exception to T.K. Martin’s usual demographic. Daniels, using exclusively his feet, paints extraordinary art with the help of his tracker Judy Duncan. He paints abstract art, Mississippi State themed paintings and Dallas Cowboys logos. Daniels has been painting for several years now and has only gotten better with time.
His painting eventually got the attention of one Mississippi State alumnus in particular, Dak Prescott. Prescott was so taken with Daniels’s painting that he flew Daniels and his tracker to Dallas to meet Prescott and the Cowboys at the AT&T Stadium. Prescott also hung Daniels's art to the right of his door at his home in Dallas.
"It inspires me to be better each and every day and one of my biggest deals is mind over matter and turning my adversities into strengths and he’s the prime example of that," said Prescott of Daniels.
Through their meeting, Daniels was introduced to the Cowboys during a huddle and presented Prescott with his Cowboys themed painting. Since their first meeting, the two have become close and Daniels has flown out three different times to present Prescott with even more artwork.
Through Prescott, the reach of Daniels’s art expanded beyond Mississippi and all the way to ESPN. A short documentary was filmed to document Daniels’s artwork and his refusal to be hindered by his disability. The documentary reached an even wider audience and was nominated for a Sports Emmy Award this week.
"I’m quiet, I’m smart, I’m confident and creative and I’m not going to let my disability stop me from what I want to do," Daniels says in the video.
The ESPN documentary is called "The Art of Inspiration" and can be found on their website at http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=24770373.
Daniels still paints twice a month at the T.K. Martin Center and wants to eventually become a graphic designer and design business logos.