Art Beyond Sight Awareness Alert III
ART FOR ALL SENSES
Art Education for the Blind’s
Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is going strong!
Celebrate October, 2006
Awareness Month is a chance for museums, libraries, schools and other community institutions – even individuals – to showcase the work they are doing to promote art
education for people who are blind or visually impaired. The 152 organizations
celebrating this year’s Awareness Month are posted on our Web site at www.artbeyondsight.org. Their public activities are found on the site’s Awareness Month Calendar at http://www.artbeyondsight.org/change/aw-calendar.shtml. (Please note: You
can access the Awareness Month Calendar of Events directly from the Web site’s home page by clicking on “calendar” in the bottom guide bar.)
People who are blind both CAN and SHOULD have access to the world’s visual
culture. They should take their place in the arts and museum communities, as participants, contributors, and employees.
KUDOS TO 2006 ART BEYOND SIGHT AWARD RECIPIENTS
Last year, Art Beyond Sight Awards honored organizations that had formed strong community partnerships to make art accessible to all. This year, we invited Awareness Month participants to nominate valuable volunteers for special Art Beyond Sight awards. Awards went to the following outstanding individuals for their dedication to their organization’s access programming:
; Aileen Mandel, The Art Institute of Chicago
; Seymour Hoffman, Birmingham Museum of Art, AL
; Claude Garrandes, Cité des Sciences, Paris
; Charlene Monahan Spearen, Columbia Museum of Art, SC
; Sarah Marei, The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
; Robin Tunick, The Jewish Guild For The Blind, NYC
; Gina Romano, Maryland School for the Blind, Baltimore
; Arthur H. Stampleman, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY
; Pamela Czapla, The Pennsylvania State University, Library Services for Persons
with Disabilities, University Park
; Helen Gokbudak, The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
; Robert Qualters, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, Pittsburgh
NEWCOMERS TO ART BEYOND SIGHT AWARENESS MONTH 2006: Part II Focus On the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul, and
the National Archaeological Museum in Athens
The Sakip Sabanci Museum in Istanbul is a private fine arts museum that, says Eti
Cukuril, “is the first and most probably the only museum in Turkey that has a program for the blind.” Its building was the residence of the Sabanci family until 1999; it is located in Emirgan, on the European side of the Bosphorus. Part of Sabanci University, the museum opened in June 2002 and has made its special exhibitions accessible for the past year. The most recent special exhibit was “Master Sculptor Rodin in Istanbul,” featuring a remarkable collection of bronze sculptures from the Musée Rodin in Paris. The photos below show visually impaired museum visitors exploring artworks in the Rodin exhibition.
Not far from the museum is a school for the blind, which encouraged the museum to develop accessible arts programming. Thus, in addition to making its special exhibitions accessible, the museum sponsors weekly programs for children with physical disabilities.
Greece’s National Archeological Museum, Athens, was built in the late 1800s
and has one of the richest collections of ancient Greek art in the world. As a public
institution, the museum is dedicated to making its services available to all people. “All
areas of the museum are accessible for people with kinetic problems,” says Dr. Rosa Proskynitopoulou, the museum’s Deputy Director. There are ramps, an elevator, accessible bathroom facilities, and programs for people who are blind or deaf.
Currently, people with visual impairments are allowed to touch specific exhibits in the sculpture collection (below left photo), including 17 original objects (statues, stele and a sarcophagus), plus the museum offers a storytelling session for children who are visually impaired and their families. Titled “The Sunday Fairytale,” it features stories and myths about Eros, the playful son of Aphrodite; participants can gently touch the sleeping statue of Eros. One of these sessions is shown in the below right photos.
The museum’s educational program for people who are deaf is titled “The Eye Hears.” It was launched in 1998 by one of the museum’s archaeologists who is deaf. Guided tours in sign language are also available.
“We hope to introduce more programs for people who are blind or visually impaired, as well as hands-on activities in other collections,” says Dr. Proskynitopoulou. In addition,
the museum is implementing “visual alarm for deaf people in the museum” and an audio
guide that will include short visual descriptions of the art objects it covers.
NEW YORK SUN PUBLISHES ARTICLE
ON ACCESSIBLE ART
Among the Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month events in New York City this year is Sense & Sensuality, an exhibition of multi-sensory artworks on loan by kind permission of BlindArt, a public not-for-profit organization in the United Kingdom (Registered Charity No. 1103980). The exhibit – on display all month at the Andrew Heiskell Library, 40 West th20 Street, NYC – was cosponsored by the New York Public Library, Art Education for the Blind, and BlindArt. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Library’s press person, Jennifer Lam, the exhibition got some nice publicity, including the following article, which also mentions other Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month participants and their programs.
The New York Sun, NY, USA -- Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Please Do Touch The Art
By SIMON VAN BOOY
Jorge Paez, age 11, sat at a banquet table at the Jewish Museum running his fingers tenderly over a brass reproduction of an ancient menorah. That he was encouraged to ignore what amounts to a commandment - "Please do not touch the art" - is, in this case, understandable: The museum's goal is to help the visually impaired experience the joy of art. The goal is met this month - which is Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month, an international initiative to make art more accessible to those with sight loss - and every other month of the year, as well.
At the Jewish Museum, Jorge and others examined reproductions of ancient artifacts made of clay, stone, and brass. The slow, controlled motion of fingers upon the objects conveyed the intense curiosity and reverence of the several attendees, and the items are passed with the help of trained volunteers who follow each piece along the table with vivid explanations as to the piece's ritual, social, and practical significance.
"It's a joy to touch this stuff at last," Karen Eisenstadt, 62, of Forest Hills, said. "I've been to an awful lot of museums where I can't touch, and it's wonderful to be told I can touch for once," she said. At her feet sat her guide dog, Jessa, a three-year-old black lab retriever.
This isn't the only access program for visitors with disabilities, the director of education at the Jewish Museum, Nelly Silagy Benedek, said: "In addition to the touch tours we also offer verbal imagining tours where educators describe the works of art in the galleries."
Ms. Benedek believes that the feeling of being present in the gallery is a vital component of the experience. "Participants get the feel of walking through the gallery, the smells, the sounds, which are all part of the museum experience," she said.
Jorge's group was organized by the staff of the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, which is one of America's oldest and most relied upon facilities for the blind or
visually impaired. The library began life more than a century ago when the New York Free Circulating Library for the Blind was established in 1895 by Richard Randall Ferry, a wealthy hat manufacturer who suddenly became blind.
The library serves approximately 12,000 blind or visually impaired people each year, and circulates annually through the mail roughly 300,000 books to anyone whose condition disables them from reading standard print.
"We even have three recording studios on the fourth floor," the head librarian, Bob McBrien, said. In the recording studio, volunteers from the world of theater record about 50 titles per year of books of local interest to New Yorkers.
Today, the library opens a month-long exhibit, "Sense & Sensuality," which features multisensory works of art on loan from BlindArt, a British nonprofit organization. The exhibit was organized by Art Education for the Blind, which was founded by Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel in 1987, when her grandmother, who was an artist and lifelong aesthete, began to lose her sight. AEB's mission is to make art, art history, and visual culture accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and to provide and promote the tangible benefits of art education, museum visits, and the actual creation of art for children and adults with sight loss.
On the museum side, MoMA has a long history of innovative access programs for the blind or visually impaired. In 2003, the museum hosted a multisensory art history program on the Matisse/Picasso exhibition. As part of the program, participants used tactile diagrams that consisted of patterns with raised dots and lines to examine famous paintings such as Henri Matisse's "Piano Lesson" and Pablo Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." Participants were also invited to touch selected sculptures, and MoMA educators shepherded gloved visitors with elaborate descriptions as they touched the surfaces of sculptures by Matisse and Picasso.
In addition to touch tours, MoMA also features an audio program that provides vivid and detailed descriptions of key works from the museum's collection. Expert commentary, musical accompaniment, and historical references enhance the experience. MoMA Audio is available free of charge, and transcripts of this and all museum audio programs are available in regular and large print upon request (for free). For those more interested in hands-on experience, MoMA periodically offers art courses for children and adults featuring the work of major modern and contemporary artists, where participants are treated to touch tours, verbal description, tactile diagrams, enlarged color reproductions, and actual art production activities.
To its programs for blind and partially sighted adults, MoMA has added "Art inSight," a monthly program held in the museum's galleries. This program engages participants though extensive verbal description.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the permanent collection can be experienced through verbal imaging tours for blind or visually impaired art lovers. Last week, the Met held its monthly "Picture This!" workshop, where four guides led 26 blind or partially sighted visitors on a two-hour tour of the "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambrose Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde" exhibition. The specially trained guides escorted individuals through the galleries, vividly described the art on view, and gave exciting biographical and contextual information.
The Met also offers a book for children combining color reproductions, large print, Braille, and tactile pictures. The book introduces many of the museum's masterpieces, and a limited number of copies are available free of charge to teachers of students who are blind or partially sighted and eligible organizations.
Across the River, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has been cultivating The Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden for more than 50 years. This 60-foot-by-100-foot space was the country's first garden created for the visually impaired and blends the fragrances of an eclectic range of plants including lemon verbena, marigold, and lavender. Visitors are encouraged to reach out and touch a fuzzy oval of Lamb's Ear, or a few tendrils of mint. Braille labels etched on brass plaques identify the specimens. The Fragrance Garden has its very own curator, Caleb Leech, whose task to keep the garden exciting involves a plethora of important considerations such as color. Ms. Leech explains that while color might seem like a superfluous component to the cultivation of a garden for the visually impaired, it is used by nature to attract pollinators, which means a seasonal concert of birds, bees, and dragonflies. The soft explosion of petals, the weight of a flower in the hand, and the rush of its fragrance is a warm reminder that beauty can be captured by many senses - not just sight.
NOTE: Accompanying this article were photos of two of the artworks in the Sense & Sensuality exhibition.
Share Your Successes
If your Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month program got press coverage, Art Education for the Blind would love to have a copy of it for its files. Kindly send to: email@example.com.