How the Blind view art in a museum
“Art is about more than what you can see. The essence of art is the connection that happens between artist and audience.” –from the Art Education for the Blind
Earlier this year, the Museum of Fine Arts (MFAH) housed the Your Bright Future exhibit. The curator of Asian arts was kind enough to offer us a private tour, but I recall still feeling gypped by the experience. So much of museum art is visual, and being blind, I could only “see” what others described to me. It made me ponder the existence of a museum where the sight impaired were allowed to touch the exhibits, feeling the crevices and texture unique to each piece of art. Or how about contemporary art that appeals to all five senses?
Because I am receiving vocational rehabilitative training through DARS for a career in the creative arts, my teacher forwarded along an email to me about the MFAH’s new Art Beyond Sight program which organizes tours for the vision impaired. While the email only stated that art will be described to the blind patrons, after googling “Art Beyond Sight,” I discovered it is a collaborative effort with Art Education for the Blind. AEB’s mission is to make art, art history, and visual culture accessible to the blind and visually impaired. It was founded in 1987 by Elisabeth Axel when her grandmother, an artist and lifelong lover of art, began losing her vision. As they visited museums together, they were dismayed by their lack of accommodations and services for blind and disabled people. “I was appalled,” she said, “that this could happen in New York City with all our wonderful museums, cultural riches, and openness to diversity.” A museum educator, Axel also knew that where there was a will, there would be a way to bring art to blind people, and that learning about, appreciating, and creating art would improve and enrich the lives of blind people as it does for sighted people.
Bridget O’Brien is the Tours Program Manager at the MFAH, and after emailing her here, I was immediately added to their contact list for upcoming Art Beyond Sight tours. The remaining scheduled ABS tours of 2010 are:
- September 11 – 2:00 PM
- October 30 – 10:30 AM
- December 2 – 2:00 PM
This Saturday’s tour will only be the third time the museum has participated in the ABS program, and so they are looking for patrons who can give honest helpful feedback as their learning curve is still steep.
Art Beyond Sight is not just a MFAH thing but a program being put into action all over the nation and world. I am happy that it is a start to resolving my quandary on how as a blind person I could still enjoy visual art along with the rest of society.