Brain injury survivor to help others with art gallery and workshops

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 13, 2016

 This piece by Kaiser will be on display at the show.

This piece by Kaiser will be on display at the show.

Photo provided by Atom Kaiser


FERNDALE — In 1995, Atom Kaiser was involved in a car crash when a driver fell asleep at the wheel going 50 mph and rear-ended Kaiser’s vehicle.

It left him with a traumatic brain injury that caused him to struggle to do things, such as read. But after learning that the drugs he was taking actually led to the side effect of blurred vision, he started to wean himself off them, and that led to withdrawal.

During this time, Kaiser felt a sudden urge to paint.

“I never really painted,” he said. “Never taken a painting class. Never really had drawing or photography in high school.

“I just had this weird urge, so I garbage-picked a painting, painted it with latex house paint and started painting with my fingers. It was like the first thing in such a long time that I had control over — that it was something I was doing and it was good for me. And then that led me on this whole road.”

The road Kaiser speaks of is the opening of his own gallery, Atom Art, located at 522 E. Nine Mile Road, and during his first show — which begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 16, and is expected to run for two months — 20 percent of all proceeds will go toward the Brain Injury Association of Michigan.

Before his head injury, Kaiser was studying to become a neurologist. But after the crash, he decided to focus his attention on art and got a degree in digital art and studio art, leading him to travel to work on his art in Spain, Mexico and the United States before coming back to Michigan to try to give back to the community in general and specifically people with brain injuries.

Now, 21 years later, when looking back on his injury, with all that he went through with his struggles and withdrawals, Kaiser said it actually was a blessing for him, as it led him to follow a path he didn’t know he wanted.

“I would’ve been really arrogant, honestly, had I become a neurologist, because I thought I was pretty smart,” he said. “Now for me, it’s more about trying to give back to the community.”

Part of the way he’s trying to give back is through the portion of the first show going toward the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, which acts as a conduit between brain injury survivors and therapy and support.

Event Marketing Coordinator Alexandra Wespon said the Brain Injury Association of Michigan has been working on having people with brain injuries get more involved with art projects as a way to get them to express their feelings about their injuries, as some might not be able to express it in words.

“A lot of times when people have a brain injury, people can’t tell that they’re struggling,” she said. “They just look like any other person. With doing the art therapy, it really allows for someone to let out what they’re feeling, what they’ve experienced on the inside that maybe people don’t know what’s going on.”

Wespon, along with Kaiser, both hope to continue the partnership, with Kaiser looking to host more shows and workshops to support brain injury survivors.