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Katie Washington: A fighting artist

Wed, Nov 13, 2013

photoKatie Washington isn’t the type to be set back. “I’m a fighter,” she says. “So I fight for everything I have in my life and everything I might want. That’s what I do.”

After hearing about the magazine from a friend, Katie wanted to sell in Highland Park, where she lives. It took her a year and a half to obtain the additional permit required by the suburb, but she only received a few tips out there. The community simply wasn’t the right area for StreetWise. Still determined to work, Katie worked with StreetWise Director of Vendor Services Greg Pritchett to find a more supportive area; she tried Wilmette. Only about two months ago, she came into the StreetWise office with a tear in her eye. “I finally found out what it’s like to sell a paper and to do really well,” she had said.

Growing up in South Shore near 79th and Marquette, Katie did everything a normal kid would do—go to the movies, go to Navy Pier, shop at the mall—except she has been in a wheelchair since age 2.

Katie was born with cerebral palsy and has not been able to take a single step in her life. She has been through physical, occupational, and other forms of therapy, and has had nine surgeries between ages 7 and 16, which meant the time she should have been in school was spent in the hospital. Perhaps the toughest part is the discrimination she faces on a day-to-day basis, both in terms of struggling to find a job and having to roll home when bus drivers lied and told her their ramps didn’t work.

eee But Katie has learned to deal with it. “This is all I know,” she says. “I’m okay with it now. I’m okay to talk about it now.”

On top of grappling with her disability and fighting to sell StreetWise, Katie challenges herself regularly through art and writing. “I became an artist years ago, and that was the best decision I ever made.”

Her favorite subjects are portraitures, but she also loves painting sunsets and landscapes—“whatever pops up in [her] head.” A student at Search Inc., she sells her art through shows twice a month. But artists struggle, and Katie knew she needed more money to support herself, which eventually led her to StreetWise.

mandy When it comes to poetry, “I love to write down what I’m feeling,” she says. Her poems seem to be a means of processing the world around her. “I love to write down what I see outside. Like right now it’s blue skies, sunny, and everything green. It’s beautiful. Flowers. I love to write about that.” The young artist is also currently working on an autobiography.

In the future, she hopes to take a vacation, send money to help those less fortunate, and eventually go to college for journalism. But today, Katie averages 90 magazines a week in Wilmette, has regular customers, and is a candidate for Most Improved Vendor of the Year.

By Cindy Ji
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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