n 2009, Darold Gholston was an everyday Detroiter, working in community activism and education. Then he was declared legally blind. Gholston lost 80 percent of his eyesight while playing catch, a baseball hitting him square in the face and knocking him down on his head. But despite having only some eyesight in one eye and total blindness in the other, Gholston continues to find his positives through mentorship, pursuing the arts and writing music.
After his injury, Gholston founded Learning Seeds Global, an art-focused nonprofit that’s earned recognition from the Detroit City Council, among others. He’s also become an award-winning sculptor whose pieces are frequently exhibited. It’s a departure from what he originally set out to do in his career; he studied kinesiology at the University of Michigan while on a track scholarship before going into art education. His goal now is simple: To expose students to the love and quality of learning.
How did you transition after your injury?
It’s still an ongoing process. I used to be a visual learner, and then the injury interrupted my learning style. In order to adapt, I got a tutor and went to a school for the blind in Kalamazoo for five months. There I learned braille, mobility, computer training and health. It helped me gain confidence in cognitive skills, and it polished me up well.
Whenever life gives you an unfortunate incident, it is up to you to rise above it. We are always going to go through downs of life. You can’t stop following your dream because of the events in your life.
What setbacks did you face after losing your sight?
Driving. When you lose the ability to drive, you lose some independence. (Losing the ability to drive) is the biggest low, because I have to constantly rely on someone else’s schedule. Now, it is mandatory to schedule things 48 hours in advance. Before the injury I was always on the go from studio to studio and visiting friends.
How do you find inspiration in art?
It is real different now to find inspiration. When I started sculpting, others became real impressed within the first month. When sculpting, I envision as if I am painting and drawing. I would sometimes sketch out the sculpture. They are similar but I am bringing it to life three dimensionally. I can’t paint in details, so now I paint more colors in big shapes. With my new way of painting, Hubert Massey encouraged me to try huge murals. I try to practice as often as I can.
How do you feel to get recognition and awards for your art?
It feels really good. When people hear that you lost your sight, they think you lost your mind or can’t be productive. For me to continue to be productive, it sets an example for others and shows it’s important to still get out and enjoy life.
Why is teaching so important to you?
People ignore the process of learning and they stumble through it. Some people just don’t know how to learn. Learning styles are different for everyone. Once you know your learning style, accomplishments come in full of quality. We also show off accomplishments of students because short-term goals tend to be overshadowed.
What do you want aspiring artists to know?
I think it is very important to practice and find a mentor willing to sit down and talk to you. I had a strong mentor in high school and he would teach me more than just track. He inspired me to work hard and have perseverance. With that mindset, I received a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Find people who are going to motivate you to the next level – but it still comes to you to believe in yourself.
You’re also into music. What is your genre of interest?
I just go to the studio and write lyrics that people can relate to. I’ve written songs called “Knocking at Your Door” and “Celebrate Our Love.” I appreciate love ballads and R&B – the type of songs that will sound good from 10 years from now. And Motown writers were a great influence in the ’60s because they did a tremendous job creating the mood.