by Peter Altschul
I don’t know when I first met Lynn, but I’m sure it happened during a Friends-in-Art (FIA) function. She might have been offering wine to a bunch of us boisterous visually impaired artists from across the United States, each committed to making the arts more approachable for us blind people. She might have been staffing the FIA booth in the exhibit hall during the annual conference of the American Council of the Blind. Or I might have heard her sing during FIA’s annual variety show.
As I became more involved in FIA, I observed how Lynn would enlist someone who could see to assist her the day before each ACB convention to buy chips, veggies, sandwich fixings, fruit, breakfast pastries, peanut butter crackers, cookies, soda, water, coffee, and wine — lots of wine — to nourish us artists as we prepared for FIA activities. Her cheerful voice guided us bleary-eyed artists to food which she and others had placed so we could find it. Her voice cut through the clamor in the FIA suite so that tedious details could get done. Her performances during our variety shows were always memorable, especially a satire she wrote and sang listing all of the tech gadgets she wanted, sung to the tune of “Santa Baby,” and a duet with another singer when they emulated dueling cats. She was also a dependable soprano in our choir that came together every year to sing arrangements written by visually impaired musicians.
The workshops she organized were also memorable: teaching us how to play a Native American flute; leading us in singing rounds that nobody but she seemed to know; and organizing a drum circle that rattled hotel guests around us (we closed the door and kept playing). More recently, she learned to play the Celtic harp, her enthusiasm drawing in others.
But I didn’t fully appreciate Lynn’s diverse talents and interests until a 2018 post-variety show celebration in the FIA suite. As the wine flowed, she kept up as the conversation veered from show glitches and South American guitar music to politics and organization behavior as someone snored on a corner couch.
The next morning, Lynn and I dragged ourselves to the exhibit hall to staff the FIA booth. Fortunately, there weren’t many customers.
Since then, Lynn continued her gracious, unassuming leadership as FIA president. Our website is being restored; we have begun to record podcasts featuring visually impaired artists; and our membership is getting younger.
Lynn died suddenly from cancer-related complications last Thursday.
Thanks, Lynn, for doing those small things that make programs successful. Thanks for your gentle prompting that drew out strengths in others that they might not know that they had. Thanks for your enthusiasm for all artistic things. Thanks for using your southern charm and dry wit to advocate for others. Thanks for your knack for including people from varying backgrounds.
And thanks for assuring that wine glasses were full and voices were raised in song.
Rest in peace, Lynn Hedl.