by Yadira Uranga with MsBoye Nagle
My Name is Yadira Uranga, I am from Odessa Texas, and I am currently living in Austin, Texas. I have a beautiful guide dog named Deja. She is a sweet, beautiful black Labrador. I have an eye condition called Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, that means that my nerves are damaged. I also have nystagmus which makes my eyes move a lot. I’ve been legally blind since birth. I have limited central vision, and I have a little bit more eyesight in my right eye. I can also see out of my left eye, but I can’t make out anything, so I use my right eye for everything that I do like writing or painting.
I use audiobooks to read because using my eyesight for reading can cause my eyes to fatigue. I also use voiceover on my iPhone to read my newsletters and articles. I also use windows magnifier on my computer to help me complete tasks like playwriting and taking classes via Zoom. I love going on walks with my guide dog. We go to different events together. We also like spending time at home, listening to music, playing tag, doing yoga, dancing together and making videos of our adventures for our Instagram account. Everything I do, I do it with Deja.
I am expressive with my art in many different ways. I love doing arts and crafts from making myself hairpieces to making my own Christmas wreath. I tend to use a lot of colors, and love making my wreaths, or anything else that I make, stand out. While most people like simplicity, I like my art to have layers of pops of color. I also like painting with different mediums like acrylic. Most of my paintings are impressionistic. I love layering onto my paintings, and some of them can be a little more abstract than others. Before I start creating my art, I always get a mental picture in my mind whether it was something that I have seen before or just a fantasy picture that my mind has made up. Then I think of the colors that I will need. I have found out that sketching it out first is very helpful, rather than just going for it with the paints. Mostly I have painted landscapes, but I also make paintings of dogs. Lately, my guide dog Deja has been my inspiration.
I met MsBoye through TILT Performance Group earlier this year. She told me she thought I might enjoy the Makers Meet-Up at Art Spark Texas. She was right! The first time I went we made Mother’s Day cards. It was fun to get to meet other artists and feel like I was a part of a creative community. I love how I get to learn new skills every time I go. Since then, I regularly perform at the Lion and Pirate Open Mic and also have taken an animation class. I also started going to Imagine Art and that has been very helpful in allowing me to continue to practice and to continue to improve my art. Imagine Art also helps us to sell our masterpieces. I will soon have one of my paintings in a gallery.
I also love dancing. Dancing can be very therapeutic for me, especially when I dance with my guide dog Deja. Dancing has helped our guide dog team to grow. Deja gets very focused when we dance together whether it is at home or in a public area. I have done performances with Art Spark Texas Dance and Body Shift Dance. I got to perform at the Capital building for the “Don’t Dis the Vote Dance Mob,” and I also got to perform in front of the Alamo Drafthouse at the “Cinema Touching Disability Film Fest” when it started.
I also do theater. I am a member of the TILT Performance Group. I have done performances virtually and in-person. Last month, we finished our production called “Strange Faces,” a musical by Andrea Grody. When I first heard that “Strange Faces” was a musical, I was excited to audition and at the same time I was very iffy about it. I had not done very much singing in a long time. I had decided I would not sing again so I was debating with myself. I had gone through a lot that made me decide to give up singing for good. After contemplating and debating with myself, I decided to face my fears and audition for this production anyway.
I was honored when I was offered the part of Laura, a young woman with Autism who was starting college, and I was happy that I had faced my fears and overcome them. Being a part of this production was wonderful. Through getting to work with other cast members, I feel like we learned a lot from each other. The music was challenging, but I believe that we all did an amazing job. It did take a lot of rehearsals and a lot of one-on-one with Michael, who played my twin brother Harrison, but we did it, we came through it together, and we gave it our very best during the performances. All our hard work was worth it because every night the audience was really moved by our performances and loved the show. I am very proud of myself and the whole cast.
TILT also provides classes called TILT U. I have done Improv Class, Dramaturgy Class,Resumé Building Class, Creative Writing Class, and so much more. TILT has helped in my journey as an actress, I feel more confident in myself, and I know that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. As a result, I have started to take other classes outside of TILT. I am currently taking a Voice Acting class which is amazing, and I am learning a lot from it. I just started taking another Improv class, and I am so excited to practice improv skills with other classmates. I am excited to learn new ways to improve and expand my skills as an actress.
I have always loved writing, but I never thought that I was great at it. James Burnside, who is the Creative Writing Instructor at TILT has inspired his students, including me, to write our plays. In his class, I was able to write my own play called “Audition of Chaos” that was a part of our virtual showcase called “Friday Night (not quite) Live.”
This year I joined Script Works. I attended my first Salon reading in September. In November, I attended a workshop called “Getting Started/Getting Unstuck” by Caleen Sinnette Jennings. I really learned a lot from this workshop. For example, I learned how to brainstorm before writing a play, and how to let go and free-write before writing a play. I also wrote a play called “Vinyl” for the Fling Salon Reading. My six-minute play was read by wonderful actors during the Fling Salon Reading. They brought my play to life, and I feel that the audience was intrigued by it. I am grateful to be a part of Script Works and am excited to see where this journey takes me as a playwright.
I also express myself through singing. I have been a singer since I was a little girl. I always dreamed of performing in front of an audience. Well, my dream has certainly come true since I have performed in front of an audience a bunch of times now! I’ve also gone to college to study music and voice. I got experience being a part of two amazing opera productions. My favorite was playing the Mother Superior in “Suor Angelica.”
Majoring in music was the best thing that I could have done for myself. I also learned how to play the piano and music theory. It took me a little bit longer than anybody else to get my associate degree, but I did it. With my guide dog Uno by my side, I felt like I could continue to study, and not give up. When I finally graduated with my associate degree, Uno and I got to walk in front of everyone to receive my Diploma. I decided to continue my music studies at a four-year college. I was iffy about going to the four-year college in my hometown, but I felt like I did not have any alternative. I was really wanting to go to another college in another city with a bigger music program, but for lots of reasons, I felt like I couldn’t. The music program there wasn’t the best, and that’s where I struggled the most.
I knew I was doing well in my music classes and yet I kept on failing, particularly in voice classes. I felt instead of advancing I was being held back as though they did not want me to succeed. I kept preparing for my junior recital and I kept on failing. Finally, I was able to do my junior recital. I printed out my program notes and I had them in the order that I was planning to perform them. When I arrived, the ableist professor decided to change the order of the songs. I was no longer able to use the programs that I had printed out. Despite his interference, I feel that my junior recital went amazing, and yet again he failed me.
I wasn’t willing to give up on my dream and planned to try again the next semester, with another professor and another set of songs, but the audition for my junior recital didn’t go so well. I had a violinist accompany me in one of the songs and after she left, her professor started making fun of her. I felt so sad, and I was remembering how many times the ableist professor had put me in the spotlight or told the disabilities counselor that I was illiterate and that I was not learning anything. I am pretty sure that he and the other professors were laughing behind my back as well.
I then maxed out on my financial aid and was no longer qualifying for any scholarships because of my bad grades. I decided to change my major to Humanities which wasn’t the same, and after that, I decided not to go to college anymore. The ableist professor eventually got fired, but my record is still full of bad grades. That’s when decided to quit singing for good. But of course, once I moved to Austin, Texas I decided to face my fears and overcome them. I am singing again, and so glad to be back with my number one passion which is singing. I also love teaching people how to start singing. I believe that everyone can sing, and everyone deserves the chance to improve their singing.
I am honored to be chosen as the Artist of the Month. I feel so blessed to have so many creative opportunities available to me here in Austin and very grateful to Art Spark Texas, Imagine Art and TILT for providing accessible classes. There was nothing like this available for people with disabilities in Odessa. I believe everybody should have the chance to express themselves creatively and have access to classes and community. Even though I have had many disappointments on my journey as an artist, I refuse to be defeated. In the future I see my artwork in more gallery shows and regularly selling my paintings. I intend to keep taking classes and developing my skills as a painter, a playwright, and an actor. Perhaps one day I’ll even get to play my dream role of Fraulein Maria in the “Sound of Music.” Nothing’s impossible, the only limits for us artists are the limits of our imagination.