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Smith: Local blind artist on 'Today' show

  • Ken Rossi with his artwork in his apartment. (Jeff Kan Lee / The Press Democrat) File 2010

At last, NBC's “Today” show has aired the piece shot last October that has Ken Rossi, blind artist and force of nature, demonstrating his art-making to kids at the Sonoma County Museum.

Repeatedly pushed off the broadcast schedule by world events, the segment on the 49-year-old Rossi and the intrigued students from Windsor's Brooks School is well worth the wait.

Reported by Today's Sarah Dallof, the nearly three-minute feature aired Saturday morning.

It shows Rossi answering questions from students of Hilary Sowers as he draws with crayon-like oil pastels. Then the 32 kids try their hand at drawing with their eyes closed.

Coincidentally, the story appeared on Today exactly eight years after Rossi was nearly killed by a car that slammed into his wheelchair as he was crossing Santa Rosa's Montgomery Drive, not far from his apartment. He is unable to walk because of a condition unrelated to his blindness.

The crash put an end to the drawing that Rossi, a native Santa Rosan and alumnus of Piner High, had begun years earlier in a class at Santa Rosa Junior College. But just last June, the Sonoma County Museum included three of his vivid, fanciful landscapes in the exhibit, “Margins to Mainstream: Contemporary Artists with Disabilities.”

The popularity of his artwork prompted the museum's Cynthia Conway to invite him to come in and resume making art. He eagerly accepted, and a couple of sessions led to NBC sending a crew to video him as he led a workshop for the Brooks School students.

Watch the piece and see if you don't agree that Rossi, a most grateful and determined man, taught the youngsters more than what it is like to create art that he cannot see.

“Live your dreams and try to do the most you can in life,” he urges them. “And be good to people.”

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