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'Through Mia's Eyes' exhibit to benefit research for visual impairment

5:48 PM, Apr. 4, 2013  |  Comments
Chasing the Sun by Amy Jarvis
Chasing the Sun by Amy Jarvis
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Being a 12 year-old has its own set of challenges. For one Sun Prairie girl, those challenges were compounded by deteriorating eyesight. In July of 2011, Mia Zutter was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease, a condition which left her legally blind.

Stargardt's is a disease of the retina. It is an inherited condition; both parents must have the recessive gene in order to contract the rare disease. It affects juveniles mainly between the ages of six and twelve, and the onset of the disease is quite rapid. In Mia's case, the deterioration of her eyesight happened in a matter of weeks. Fortunately with Stargardt's the condition doesn't take away the ability to see shapes, colors or light.

Fond du Lac artist Mel Kolstad is Mia's aunt. "When we (my family) realized the scope of this disease, I was frustrated because I felt so powerless - we all did", says Mel. "After the initial shock wore off, I started to think about what I could do, in my own small way."

Kolstad rallied 12 of her friends, including her husband Brian and her sister (Mia's mom), Jennifer, to create works of art for an exhibit to benefit Foundation Fighting Blindness (www.blindness.org). But this wouldn't be just any artwork - Mel thought that by creating works of art just one quarter-inch square, viewers may get an idea of the obstacles that Mia faces every day. "Those tiny squares - which I had to squint to even see - brings awareness of the difficulties Mia has to see things that we take for granted with our normal eyesight. But I also wanted to show that there is beauty in the diminutive."

When Julie Balson, owner of Gallery & Frame Shop, heard the news, she quickly offered to help. "I can't imagine what Mia is going through. I wanted to offer wall space, publicity, whatever I could to make this exhibit happen."

"I am so grateful to Julie and my friends and family who are making this idea a reality. I am incredibly blessed to have these people in my life, who have offered help out Mia. Because of their generosity, we're able to donate 100 percent of the sales of the artwork to Foundation Fighting Blindness. We hope to raise a hefty sum."

The exhibit, entitled "Through Mia's Eyes", will be held from April 15-June 1 at Gallery & Frame Shop and includes the following artists: Carolyn Brady, Susan Fiebig, Kathy Gieschen, Darlene Hagopian, Amy Jarvis, Carol Jensen, Mel and Brian Kolstad, Nicci Martin, Gary Warren Niebuhr, Nina Schmidt and Mary Wehner. A reception will be held there during Tour the Town on Friday, April 19 from 5 to 8 p.m. Ms. Kolstad and many of her artist friends will be in attendance.

As for Mia? She is an ice skater and runs track and field and cross country for Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School in Sun Prairie, with the help of her older sister Natalie. "I try and stay positive. I'm not going to let it (the Stargardt's) get in the way of me doing something."

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