Meet Soul Studio Artist: Felicia Bowers

Where there is a will, there is a way – and Felicia Bowers’ artistic will could not be stronger.
Unable to paint by hand, the 26-year-old from West Bloomfield uses her foot instead – her right foot to be exact.

“I am an artist,” says Felicia, who has cerebral palsy and communicates through an eye-controlled speech-generating computer. “I enjoy painting and … showing people other ways to do art because I do it with my eyes and my foot.”

Using a special foot brace, Felicia wraps her paint-covered toes around the brush and brings color to her canvas with both passion and purpose.

Click on the video below to watch her story:

But painting isn’t her only love.

Felicia embraces a variety of mediums for her artwork. Whether she’s weaving a fabric heart as big and bold and beautiful as that of its creator or painstakingly affixing tiny pieces of paper to a paper-mache car sculpture, Felicia applies the same dedicated focus to everything she touches. Oftentimes, she designs her projects first on a computer, as she did with her multidimensional masterpiece depicting a wolf howling in the moonlight.

Soul Studio “has opened doors for Felicia,” says her mother, Tina Bowers. “Since she’s been here, it’s amazing the things she’s been doing with her feet and her hands and her arms and her eyes. … I didn’t know she had it in her.

“It’s a lot of work for her but she loves it.”

Although cerebral palsy greatly reduced Felicia’s muscle control, it could not diminish her determination.

Diagnosed with the movement disorder at just 5 months old, Felicia has weathered a lifetime of challenges and uncertainty with her shining attitude and bright smile.

As a baby, “she couldn’t sit up. She couldn’t crawl. She couldn’t feed herself,” Tina says.

But as time progressed, Tina saw hope in her little girl’s eyes.

At age 2, Felicia began using her eyesight to communicate. The toddler would use her eyes to point to letters, words and pictures to express her thoughts and feelings.

What Felicia couldn’t do physically, she used her beautiful mind to do.

“She is so smart,” says Tina.

Today, with the help of eye-gaze technology, Felicia’s activities mirror those of other young women. She texts her mom and Facebooks with friends. Once unable to speak at all, she can now say several words on her own, without the help of her computer.

Soul Studio, however, has taken her fortitude to a whole new level.

“I think she really gets a challenge here and has to use her mind to both communicate with other people and figure out how she’s going to make each project,” says Stuart Opperer, a volunteer who works with Felicia.

The two make quite a team, says Stuart, adding that the teaching moments go both ways.

“She’s taught me so many things about myself,” he says, and about looking at artists like Felicia as people with challenges, rather than disabilities. “And that makes a person – all people – more human.”

For Felicia, the studio has become a haven for her creative spirit.
“Soul Studio is a place that brings people like me together,” she says. “I can be free there to do artwork and meet new friends.”

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