Artist opens his studio and his heart with hands-on therapy

Mill Creek resident turns his passion into a connection with special needs students
By Dan Aznoff | Sep 20, 2018
Dan Aznoff Mill Creek resident Jalal (Jay) Gilani works with one of his young students on a mold for a creation at his art studio in Everett. The storefront FeelArtistic location provides space for artists in five different medias as well as classes in pottery, visual arts and glass fusing. The artist-in-residence also offers the studio for a unique form of therapy for individuals with special needs.

Mill Creek resident Jalal (Jay) Gilani considers himself a lucky man, thanks to the fact he has been able to turn his passion into a thriving business that benefits some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Gilani is the owner of FeelArtistic, an art studio in Everett that opens its doors to people of all ages who have discovered the healing power of art.

“My parents told me that artists cannot make enough money to ever afford to have a family,” he told The Beacon. “When I was old enough to understand that they were right, I was forced to make the decision to set my passion aside so I could afford to have a wife and support a family.”

The artist who specializes in charcoal and pencil portraits spent decades in Chicago utilizing his engineering degree in the IT industry, but never lost the desire to share his talent. When his wife accepted a position as a clinical psychologist with a medical group in Skagit County, she encouraged Gilani to pursue his dream.

“Artists and teachers are two of professions who are not rewarded financially for their efforts,” he said with a smile. “So naturally, I turned my studio into a center where I could work and teach others to express themselves through art.”

The FeelArtistic studio in Everett is located adjacent to the medical clinic where Rozina Lakhani established her practice. She has utilized her husband’s talent as a unique therapy for people with special needs.

“We will get students and people of all ages in the studio for art therapy,” the artist-in-residence said. “Creating pottery and the opportunity to blow glass has proven to be a way many of our students have found to express themselves.”

High school students come to the studio to serve as mentors for some of the students with special needs.

“Both groups learn from each other,” he said.

Gilani remembers one young boy who refused to draw anything except dinosaurs. He was encouraged to begin sketching landscapes and other scenes that included prehistoric creatures, even if they were totally out of context.

One mother brought her 7-year-old son to the studio. The woman was consumed by her son’s obsession with drums and pounding on items to beat out a rhythm on everything within his reach.

“Working with his therapist, we devised a program that focused his attention on drawing drums and creating 3D items that could be used for percussion,” Gilani said. “Both mothers were thankful we found ways to reach their boys through creativity.”

All activities at the studio are free for artists under 5 years old, when accompanied by a parent.

In addition to classes for the visual arts, glass fusing and pottery, FeelArtistic offers collaborative sessions for students with special needs as well as cost-effective field trips. The studio is at 10333 19th Ave. SE in Everett, across the street from the Costco in Silverlake.

More information is available by calling 425-939-1550 or at FeelArtistic.org.

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