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Michigan artist with cerebral palsy pursues dreams with help of technology

Artist uses Tobii to draw

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – When she was just five months old Felicia Bowers was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, but that diagnosis hasn't stopped her from pursuing her dreams of being an artist and now some high-tech tools are allowing her to create in a whole new way.

At the Soul Studio in West Bloomfield art and inspiration is around every corner, and that's where Felicia Bowers is hard at work.

"I was 13 years old when I first wanted to do art," Bowers said.

Bowers uses an eye-gaze device called Tobii to type out sentences with her eyes.

"I use my Tobii and my eyes to talk. Sometimes when using my Tobii I take longer to respond. I love talking to new people," Bowers said.

At Soul Studio artists with special-needs work with professional facilitators and volunteers. Bowers has faced a lot of challenges.

"My body doesn't work very well. I can't control its movements," she said.

But the staff at Soul Studio was determined to figure out a way to help Bowers create art.

They started by trying to attach Velcro to her foot and let her paint, then they tried a helmet, but they wanted to do more.

"It must be seven months ago we had a staff meeting and I turned to Adam and I said, 'Adam, Felicia has been here a year and a half, we have got to figure out, there must be something out there. She loves art. What can we do?'" said Bassie Shemtov the director of Friendship Circle.

They devised a way to allow Bowers to use her Tobii to allow her to draw. It was a painstaking process, a marriage of technology and teamwork. Bowers draws lines using her eyes while her partner adjusts the digital canvas.

Bowers' first drawing was a self-portrait, but it was another work that took her art to the next level. That piece is called "The Dancer."

That piece sold for $14,500 at a charity auction. The artists each make 40 percent of what they sell, but it's about more than money.

"My art helps people understand me. I want people to learn about love and freedom from my art," Bowers said.

Bowers hopes to someday get married to her boyfriend and continue to pursue her art and sell more artwork.

The Soul Studio opened a new exhibit for the holidays. It's a show featuring the work of their artists. The Soul Studio is located in West Bloomfield.


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