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Image by Sarah Richter

This Denver Artist is Raising Awareness for Multiple Sclerosis

Sarah Richter uses photography to help others understand how a person with multiple sclerosis perceives the world.

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Nine years ago, Sarah Richter woke up to a changed world. She opened her eyes one morning and saw everything tripled. Her eyes ached, her body felt numb, and she was overcome with vertigo. Not long after, Richter, only 28 years old, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system disease that can impair the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body.

An artist since childhood, Richter had been working as an illustrator for children’s books at the time, but when MS hindered her fine motor skills, she refused to let the condition stop her art. She switched out her pencils for a camera, and set out to capture the world from a unique perspective. Art allowed Richter to share reality as she experienced it, so even total strangers might understand how a person with multiple sclerosis perceives the world.

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When the Rocky Mountain MS Center showcased Richter’s art at their annual gala last year, people immediately connected with her creation. “We were seeing people going to her exhibit, taking their family and friends, and saying ‘This is what I feel like,’” says Sarah Kyger, the center’s events and volunteer manager.

MS affects one in 550 Coloradans, but open discussions about MS aren’t happening as much as they should. “People [are] getting diagnosed younger, and hadn’t really met anyone that has MS or talks about it,” says Kelsey Lantz, the center’s education coordinator. That’s why the center is hosting Expressions of MS, a free, multimedia exhibit featuring art inspired by life with MS. Ten artists, including Richter, will present paintings, music, photography, and other media depicting their experience living with MS or as the loved one of an MS patient.

(Related: Read Natasha Gardner’s feature on living with multiple sclerosis,  “Walking Scar(r)ed”)

In addition to increasing the visibility of the disease, the event will also include representatives from pharmaceutical companies that can direct patients to different resources, such as GatherMS, a Yelp-like platform dedicated to helping patients find the services they need. While wandering through the exhibit, attendees can nibble on grilled chicken skewers, Swedish meatballs, and short rib French dips and enjoy the wine selection, but they’ll leave with more than a full stomach. Hopefully, guests will be more informed about this disease and its “invisible symptoms,” Lantz says. “Once people start talking about MS, you start learning about people in your circle you never knew had it.”

If you go: The event takes place on Wednesday, July 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Bigsby’s Folly Craft Winery & Restaurant (3563 Wazee St.).

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