tragedy, the direct result of the strength of her character and determination to succeed. Born in Taiwan, Lin possessed all the potential and hope of any young child. But tragedy struck when she was pushed down a flight of stairs as a 2-year-old. “Someone pushed me from the third floor to the second. I hit my head and suddenly stopped talking,” said Lin, as she recalled the events and ensuing years of struggle and success during a recent interview. Because of the traumatic brain injury, Lin remained silent until she was a teenager. “Everybody thought I was stupid, since I didn’t talk, and I was put in a class for developmentally delayed kids. The only way I could communicate was by drawing pictures,” she recalled. It became her life’s work and saved her. “The art made me feel alive. The Taiwanese think that not speaking is a punishment from God,” she said. Thanks to her strong will and help from classmates, Lin eventually learned to talk. “I asked myself, ‘Do I want to be a useless person?’ and decided ‘No, I want to fight for this,’ and I suddenly started to talk. By age 20, I had my writing appear in a newspaper,” she said. After graduating from an arts-focused high school in 1981, Lin worked in Taiwan as a freelance graphic designer and photographer, doing illustrations, cartooning and layout for a weekly news magazine. She also created product designs for a toy company. But by the late 1990s, her brother and sister had moved to Lexington, and invited her to join them. She arrived in 1998 with her son Henry, now 16, and daughter Yi Yi, now 13. “My sister offered me a job and my brother had a house. My parents thought it would be good for me,” she said. Once established, Lin got involved with the Memory Studio project of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s Statewide Head Injury Program, which works with people affected by brain injury. She also began taking English as a Second Language classes at MCC. “English is difficult for me – Mandarin is easier, since it is pictures. But I read a lot to help myself,” she said. Lin taught photography at the Memory Studio project and did airbrush painting for a Carlisle company. But, after taking ESL courses at MCC, she decided to enroll, study art and become more professional. “I met Professor Swan in the fall of 2004 when I handed her a form and told her ‘my name is Pai,’ ” she recalled. Lin enrolled in Swan’s Color & Design class, which launched her art and graphic design career. “Pai took every course we offer here – Color & Design, Painting I, II and III, courses in sculpture, graphic design, computer graphics, drawing, electronic imaging, photography, art appreciation,” said Swan. She personally tutored Lin in Art Appreciation, since it required extensive reading and writing. “Pai is incredibly talented in every media and has a great drive and work ethic. She doesn’t stop,” recalled Swan. “I’ve had many students with disabilities, and am willing to give them all the time in the world if they have the talent and the drive — and Pai definitely does.” Lin graduated in 2009 with a certificate in Graphic Design and 123 credits on her resume. Projects she completed at Middlesex include a magazine she designed while a student in a computer graphics course. Published by the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, it provided information, hope and support to brain injury victims. She also had a oneperson show in MCC’s Henderson Hall Gallery in Bedford. “Pai’s determination to overcome her handicap has been awe-inspiring to students, faculty and staff,” said Swan. Now, her work is on view for all to see as they drive by MCC’s B&M Building on Central Street. The Lowell landmark, a two-story brick Victorian Gothic structure, has housed several businesses over the years, including the Rialto Theater lobby from 1921 into the 1960s. The Lowell Historic Preservation Commission saved the building from demolition in 1989 after which the Lowell National Historical Park renovated the exterior then transferred ownership to Middlesex in 2008. The college is in the process of acquiring funding for interior renovations. Now, thanks to Lin’s dramatic paper sculptures, people can get a sense of what the building’s future will hold. Nancye Tuttle 4 Examples of artist Pai Fang Lin’s recent work – MCC Theater Department poster; cover of Middlesex Magazine; cut-metal sculpture in the Culture Garden in Lowell’s Derby Park; cut-paper installation in windows of Lowell’s Boston & Maine Building. Profiles |13|