Lucy Person blinked away tiredness, busily coating a wall in the basement of the Center for the Arts (CFA) with pink acrylic paint. Her late-night artistic sessions — a result of procrastination and other commitments — produced an eye-catching mural with a personal message about her own struggles with ADHD.
Just shy of one year later, Person, a 2022 studio art alum, reflected on those sleepless nights where a random CFA wall became her lasting legacy at UB.
Because she also had to complete her senior thesis show within the same timeframe as the mural, long nights became an unwelcome necessity.
But her real enemy? The CFA’s 11 p.m. closing time.
“I think it’s ridiculous that it closes, and if anyone out there is listening, you should change that because artists need to get creative,” Person said. “But janitors wouldn’t really bother us or anything.”
Janitors and other exhausted muralists aside, Person had time to sit alone with her thoughts. Despite being diagnosed with ADHD in ninth grade, Person never received academic support. This exacerbated her primary burden: being misunderstood.
“There’s always been those that do not get it at all and just act like you’re making excuses and things like that, and it can really wear down on your self-confidence,” Person said. “It makes you feel stupid or incompetent.”
The mural depicts a dark head with phrases pouring out of its ears. The vinyl printed text highlights key misconceptions about ADHD ranging from “overreacting,” being “lazy” or “stupid” and even asking, “Did you try a planner?”
Person said managing her ADHD isn’t as simple as buying an agenda or setting countless alarms.
“I’ll have an alarm that tells me to do something. I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah.’ And then I’ll stop it. And then I’ll forget immediately,” Person said. “I’ve had an alarm go on for three hours straight, just hitting snooze.”
Overcoming the challenges of ADHD requires more than these surface-level “solutions.” Person focuses on developing positive routines and sometimes, on a much smaller scale, finding miniature escapes from reality in her art. Just doodling in lectures filled the part of her brain that’s trying to go off “in a million places.”
Once her brain managed to get in one place — rather than a million — for long enough, Person made the final brush strokes on “ADHD” and graduated that spring.
She spent the following summer working for Just Pizza, burnt out after years of creating art for school. After a much needed break, Person kicked back into action with commission work. She even painted two murals for Basha Mediterranean Eatery in Rochester.
Being a full-time, “hopefully-not-starving-for-long” artist, Person delivers for Uber Eats as a side hustle. Art supplies aren’t cheap.
As she breaks into the professional art world, “ADHD” reminds Person of the meaning her work can communicate.
“ADHD” is more than a creative outlet for Person. It’s an opportunity to educate those who might stroll by about her struggles — and those of others.
“People are like, ‘Just pay more attention.’ And it’s not as drastic as this, but it’s like saying to someone that doesn't have working legs, ‘Just learn to walk better,’” Person said. “It’s like telling somebody with ADHD, ‘Try harder.’ They’re already trying really hard.”
Alex Novak is an arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Novak is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.