Jared Dunten – Artist, Spinal Cord Injury Advocate

Before you watch Johnny’s interview with Jared Dunton, here’s what you should know about Jared…

In 2000 while on a camping trip with friends, Jared Dunten dove into the Rio Grande, hit his head on a sandbar, and awoke in an ICU paralyzed and on a ventilator.  Once a young and strong athlete, he had broken his neck and faced an uncertain amount of time in rehabilitation to simply be able to breath on his own again, much less walk.  But true to his resiliency and strength, Jared managed to fight his way off the ventilator and feeding tube and was eventually able to leave the hospital and move back home, although the process was much more arduous than he first expected.

“I didn’t really know a lot about paralysis from a spinal cord injury [at the time of the accident] so my expectations were, you know, I’m really going to hit the rehab gym and this is really going to be tough for 4 to 6 months and then I’ll be back on my feet [and] I’ll be fine,” he says.  “And I’ve had to kind of adjust my time frame.  I was like, ‘Well shit, this is going to take a lot longer than I thought.’  And so I’m still working towards that goal.  That’s still the end-all – to get out the wheelchair and back on my feet and running.”

While working on that goal, Jared picked up the art of painting.  Despite not having much of a visual art background, since his paralysis he has managed to learn and study the technique of mouth painting, creating beautiful pieces with a brush and his mouth.

“One thing that made sense to me with painting was it was something that I could do physically,” he says.  “There was a certain physical interaction with the actual canvas – whether it was feeling the canvas through the paintbrush or just kind of being able to make a mark. . . .  It was something I could move and do and see, kind of the outcome – I loved that.  I loved being able to control it.  And so I really just kind of fell in love with it after that.”

Since learning to paint, Jared has used the exposure that it provides as an opportunity to raise awareness  about spinal cord injuries.  With the declarative mantra, “I Will Paint Myself Out of This Wheelchair,” as his guide, Jared and his wife and friends have created the Will Walk Foundation – an organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for spinal cord injuries.  Its purpose, he says, is to one day help end paralysis that affects some 1,250,000 Americans.

“I just kind of have to be hard-headed about [being unable to walk] and just keep trying,” he says.  “And I think that’s really what everyone’s got to do and just not be complacent and not be wiling to go, ‘Oh, well you know what, they’re paralyzed, we’re going to give them a chair and you know, give them a flexible schedule and hope for the best.’  It’s like, we really need to push people to get shit done.”

It’s a reflection of his determination that he continues to fight for himself, and others, to improve the quality of lives of those affected by spinal cord injuries.

“I look at it a couple different ways,” he says.  “We’ve gotta get this fixed, we’ve gotta do something about it, and we’ve gotta get rid of these damn wheelchairs.”

Below is the video of Johnny interviewing Jared.

Download audio MP3 file (Right-click and choose “Save Target As…” or “Save File As…”)

Transcript coming soon


  1. Jess C. says:

    I gotta say… this one really got me. Jared, you’re an inspiration, man. Thanks for sharing this with us. :)

  2. IlinaP says:

    I am SO happy to see Jared here! I wrote about him when I first started my blog. He is indeed an inspiration, and his art is wonderful. I have been coveting a Jared Dunten piece for years! Well done.

  3. Jessica Colburn says:

    LOVED the interview!!!! Same ol’ charming, eloquent, intelligent, good looking, hilarious, witty, one of a kind Jared I remember from high school. So good to see you again! Thanks for the inspiration! You are incredible. Sending much, much love your way!!!

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