How I Got Schooled by Kanishka

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I pulled my car into the Pixar campus at Emeryville CA, passed the security booth and parked. What a beautiful place! What excitement! I took a deep breath; this was going to be a great experience. I was here at the Pixar campus, volunteering with Kids & Art to make art with kids who are affected by cancer. Little did I know that this experience would turn out to be even greater and more significant than I anticipated!

My name is Rinat Goren and I am a Bay Area artist. As an artist I constantly struggle with challenges of inspiration, focus, self-doubt and determination. I have a to-do-list of items including-

  • Play more
  • Be more expressive
  • Ignore the passage of time

This writing is about how working with Kids & Art helped me with my struggles and my goals.

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The notion that art is therapeutic is not new to me. The knowledge that making art forces one to forgets the circumstances and focus on the ‘here and now makes sense to me. On the other hand, the idea of working with kids who are affected by cancer sounded somewhat intimidating – after all, I am not an art teacher, I have no experience with working on art with another person, let alone some one who is not well. Let alone a kid… Regardless, in I walked, equipped with my knowledge and burdened by my concerns.

At Pixar that day, on my first event with Kids & Art, I worked with Kanishka, a 15 year old who seemed to be feeling well that day. As more families with kids walked in to the Pixar studio and got their assigned artist, Kanishka and I started to work together on his painting.

Because of that event in Pixar and through many later events, I learned that when I work with kids I tend to dive in as both my kid-partner and I are concentrating on our work. The time passes so quickly and intensely that I am always surprised when the session ends. I always look around me, amazed that so many kids are already done, and that so much beautiful art is piling around us. I am always so surprised by the intensity and the depth of the experience.

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With Kanishka, I experienced this for the first time. I actually don’t remember much of our session because we were so occupied and conducted so many discussions, exchanges, and decisions. Kanishka was demanding – he needed help but wanted to work independently. He debated colors and style but was also decisive and confident in his decisions. I was so inspired by him. I knew he was ill, and so busy with tests, treatments and the reality of constant hospitalizations. Yet, while he was working on his piece of art it was as if he was floating on to another space, leaving his challenging reality behind and soaring above it all. He was intense, accurate, concentrating acutely on his piece. I was in awe! It was so inspiring for me to observe him. And I learned from him! Yes, it was I who was schooled in how to do art! To this day I have a clear visualization of leaving it all behind and move into a different space just to be with my art when I work. It is thanks to him that my art experience is deeper and more meaningful.

I had one more chance to work with Kanishka soon after. He did not finish his art piece that day at Pixar and he asked if I could come to his home and help him finish the piece. When I came about a week later, his illness was apparent. He did not feel or look well. He told me he had just had his chemotherapy and he seemed very sick. Determined to work on his piece he dove right into work in his typical deep, intense way. I was in awe. How was it possible to feel so ill but still work so hard with the intent to finish the piece? It took about an hour and when I left he was pleased with his art.

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Kanishka passed away very shortly after that.

To this day he is an inspiration to me. He was my teacher in a very direct, honest way. I find myself thanking him on a regular basis. Thank you, Kanishka, for teaching me to work with purpose and intensity, to leave everything else behind and be in the moment, making my art, playing, and being expressive. Thank you for showing me to work with intention, ignoring time. Thank you for giving me perspective. Thank you for working with me.


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