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WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2012

lifestyle F e a t u r e s

Bojana Coklyat guides the hand of a student in art class at the Concordia Learning Center.

Children paint their hands in art class.

Bojana Coklyat in art class at the Concordia Learning Center at St Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City, New Jersey April 23, 2012. — AFP photos

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he sees little more than shadows and shapes. However, American artist Bojana Coklyat not only pursues her passion for painting, but transmits it to children with impaired sight so that they can see the world in a new way. Coklyat, 33, lost most of her sight four years ago as a result of diabetes. She had to give up her job at an art gallery and, despairingly, put down her paint brushes. Today, Coklyat is full of energy, greeting visitors with a big smile at Saint Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City. An accomplished painter, she started as a volunteer, having decided to reexamine her life. At the school, which teaches children through all grades, she found “they did have an art class (room), a beautiful one, but no art teacher. I said, ‘can I volunteer?’” At first, her initiative was something of a surprise at the school. But over the last two years she has become indispensable and money has been found in the budget to pay her. During a recent session, she taught two blind adolescents and nine nursery school aged children. Some of the younger children had limited ability to see colors. The older ones did not, but had mental concepts of different colors. The older classmates arrived with their telescopic white canes, which they folded and attached to their jeans on arrival. Coklyat moved from group to group, telling Kevin, 17, to keep on with a painting started the previous week. “What color do you want?” she asked, taking his hand and guiding it from a part already painted to an unpainted area, then bringing him paint and a brush. Omar, 15, had started illustrating the words “hope, fear, kindness,” she said. Again, she guided his hand, tracing the edges of the paper, before giving him a brush. Omar asked for white to illustrate “hope.” “Hope is like clarity, hope is clear, that’s why I chose white,” he said. At the other end of the classroom, the young children were getting impatient. “Can I start? I want pink,” a little girl said. Coklyat suggested spring and flowers as a subject. Immediately she was off again to check on Omar. “That is pretty much a perfect circle,” she said, congratulating him. The art works were highly clumsy, but what matters, Coklyat said, “is the process of creating.”“They are so into it. It is so important for them. It’s another way of expressing themselves. It gives them a sense of accomplishment.” With the younger children, she got them to touch the wet paint.”How does that feel? It’s wet paint,” she said. “You like the feeling of the brush?”

Nathaniel Stephens in class.

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est they take over Dick Clark’s old title as the “world’s oldest teenagers,” some of the “Glee” kids are finally graduating (from high school, if not the series). Lea Michele and cohorts will exit William McKinley High in May 22’s tassel-tossing season finale, but first comes this week’s release of “Glee: The Graduation Album,” a complete set of celebratory and/or valedictory songs. Well, nearly complete. Unfortunately, these aging young ‘uns never get around to “My Way.” But the grads do cover sentimental life-lesson anthems ranging from Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” to Madonna’s “I’ll Remember,” with a puckish time out for Puck to revive a token rocker, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” The song selection is, by and large, not bad, for a po(m)p-and-circumstance collection. If you’re planning a graduation party yourself, this particular “Glee” album is useful... as a tracklist guide for going to iTunes and downloading the versions by the original artists. The intention sometimes seems to be to fool you into believing you are hearing the original, so “Edge of Glory” starts off with one of the New Directions lasses doing a pitch-perfect Lady Gaga imitation. The glorious

Bojana Coklyat and Omar Tzic at the Concordia Learning Center at St. Josephís School.

“Yes, that tickles,” a child replied. Omar asked for red to paint the word “fear.”“My favorite color is red. Red reminds me of the passion that I have for painting, it gets me strength,” he said. He said he loves the class. “When I think about something I like to visualize it before I put in it on paper.”When she’s not teaching, Coklyat paints at home, her face close to the canvas. She favors big pieces in vivid colors and her style has changed since she went through her huge health problems.”I am less focused on details, and more focused on feelings. I use more contrasts, more bright colors, and black lines to guide me,” she said. “That is amazing how people find connections with my art and my feelings.”In November she underwent a kidney and pancreas transplant and no longer needs dialysis and insulin injections. With her improving health, new projects are taking shape. Coklyat is preparing several exhibitions and says now she’s keen to expand her experiences and become an art therapist. — AFP Children paint their hands in art class.

Walking canes hang next to the coat rack.

slavishness continues with Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” as the McKinley High backing band somehow manages to perfectly capture Bruce’s calliope-synth and snare drum sounds, circa 1984... and on a public-school budget! Even a cover of the irresistible “You Get What You Give” - by the 1998 one-hit wonder New Radicals - takes pains to find a chorus boy who sounds exactly like now-obscure original singer Gregg Alexander. The famous last verse has been altered, though.“Glee” may push the teen-sexuality envelope on TV, but an expletive had to be changed to “we’ll kick you down, yeah”... go figure. The show’s covers are more fun when they depart in some dramatic way from the original hits, either via an arrangement choice or unusual pick of vocalist, but “Glee” has never been particularly interested in musical adventurousness. So “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” has both Finn and Blaine doing their best Billie Joe over an acoustic-guitar-and-strings setup that’s indistinguishable from Green Day’s instrumental track. But father figure Matthew Morrison, for his part, sounds like neither Bob Dylan nor Rod Stewart when

he covers everyone’s favorite wistful-daddy song, “Forever Young,” even if his capable show-tune take won’t make you forget anyone’s more gravelly version. And at least Michele won’t be mistaken for Mraz when she contributes a chick-rock rendition of “I Won’t Give Up,” which picks up some welcome choral steam in the bridge. Along the same lines, Lea/Rachel also does Beyonce’s “I Was Here” before departing for New York, in a sideways plot that may or may develop into “Smash II” next season. Who knows? If the series somehow holds on for a few decades, maybe Rachel can graduate from Beyonce’s “I Was Here” to its inevitable sequel, Sondheim’s “I’m Still Here.”—Reuters

Robyn Browne works with paints during art class.

Profile for Kuwait Times

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