PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Former BMX star and disabled painter Jason Hamel showcased his work Thursday, raising thousands of dollars which he will put towards buying a handicap accessible van.
Hamel used to push himself to his physical limits in the competitive sport of BMX bike racing when he was a teenager, until a devastating fall paralyzed him from the shoulders down when he was 19 years old.
“I hit the jump, and I landed on the side of my head and my neck, and broke my neck,” Hamel said in an interview with Eyewitness News back in February. “They all came running over, the kids I was with. And I’m like, ‘Will you touch my legs?’ And he said ‘I’m touching you,’ and that was it.”
Six months after returning home from the hospital, Hamel decided to enroll at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) to study fine arts. He later earned a degree at Rhode Island College (RIC) in graphic design.
Hamel now creates beautiful artwork from his home in Jamestown by holding a paintbrush with his mouth. Hamel’s work was showcased at the Sprout Gallery on Valley Street in Providence on Thursday. Several paintings of flowers and scenery hung on the walls for all to see and potentially purchase.
According to Hamel, his girlfriend inspired him to recreate flowers on canvas. But he said he has decided to branch out from flowers, now painting landscapes such as the windmill at Point Judith.
Gallery Manager at Sprout Shari Weinberger said the gallery usually asks for a small commission for the space, but Thursday they asked no commission. She said Thursday night is, “all about Jason.”
Weinberger said Hamel created all the work that was displayed at the gallery within the past few months. She said that Hamel’s friend Marc is also displaying his artwork at the gallery, and is donating his pieces to Hamel to help raise funds for the van.
“It’s pretty crazy that a couple months ago there was nothing and I put it all together,” Hamel said. “It’s just incredible.”
Hamel said he is close to having enough funds to buy the van he wants. On Thursday, he raised thousands of dollars to put towards the purchase. He said he already has a van in mind.
According to Hamel, he plans to continue to paint and show off his artwork.
“A lot of people are saying they want them and they’re sold, so I guess I’ve got to get to work,” he said.