UCW art student gains new lease of life despite losing her sight

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For University Centre Weston (UCW) student Linda Chan, North Somerset Arts Week (28 April – 7 May) means much more than just having the chance to exhibit her colourful and abstract landscape paintings and prints to the art lovers in the general public.

It is also the latest demonstration of her attempts to embrace life with higher education, travel and adventure while she can still see.

The 60-year-old suffers from diabetic retinopathy, which has caused near-blindness in one of her eyes and severely restricted vision in the other, and has to have laser eye surgery on a regular basis to slow the further deterioration of her sight.

So Linda, who spent most of her career working in management roles in the health and social care sector in London and Southampton before retiring to Weston in 2012, is determined to make the most out of her vision while it lasts.

As well as enrolling on the Foundation Degree in Contemporary Art and Professional Studies at UCW, which is delivered in partnership with Bath Spa University, the self-confessed ‘seenager’, or ‘senior teenager’, is a regular fixture on the town’s social scene, going to live music at the Tropicana and theatre productions at the Playhouse, and was until recently a trustee director of Voluntary Action North Somerset.

This newfound love of art and adventure has also led Linda and her guide cane – which she calls Michael – on a trip across the United States, where she took in 17 galleries in seven cities, white water rafting, parascending off of a French mountain and, most recently, shooting scenes as an extra on BBC television programme Casualty.

The mother-of-one said: “I’ve called my exhibition for Arts Week ‘Seeing the World with New Eyes’ and studying for my degree has really helped me to do just that.

“Coming from a career in business, I realised that I didn’t ever just stop and stare as I was always so busy and there was always something going on that needed my attention.

“As I’m losing my sight, I’m now taking the time to really appreciate my surroundings, and together with my lecturers we’ve worked out that as there are no two days when I see things the same way, I have a different perspective on colour and form that I try to reflect in my art.

“UCW have been brilliant; I’ve been given a laptop with special software to help me do my degree work and lots of support in other ways too, and enrolling with them was one of the first steps I took in really embracing everything Weston has to offer.

“I think it is a great town, and I’m really enjoying being a part of the University Centre.”

To find out more about Linda’s exhibition and how UCW can help you achieve your ambitions with higher education, please go to www.ucw.ac.uk or follow UCWeston on social media.