One of my volunteer activities in the past year has been to help with the multi-sensory tours at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). These tours started in 2009 and were designed to make art experiences more accessible to people who are blind or have partial sight. I became so interested in the benefits and tensions of “tactile” or multisensory programs that I even wrote my master’s thesis on this topic. Since writing my paper I have become a volunteer with the AGO, delivering these specific tours to groups of people with disabilities. It has been a lot of fun and I have learned a lot about accessibility, advocacy, and art. My major issue with programs such as this is that they are only given to specific groups of disabled people. In a way this practice is further excluding people and segregating them into isolated groups. I believe that multi-sensory access should be given to all of us, so that we can all experience art and learn in the way that works best for us. The AGO has really taken many great steps in the right direction with these initiatives and I look forward to see what they will continue to do in the future.
My favourite part of this work is thinking of ways of making art more accessible to all. For example, this could include making a tactile representation of an image, pairing an art work with a piece of music that evokes analogous emotions, learning how to give an in-depth visual description of an image without resorting to words like “see” and “look” (this is much harder than you might think!). A few weeks back I gave a tour for a group of teenagers who are blind or partially sighted in the Abstract Expressionist show (this is a must see show if you have the opportunity before it closes in early September http://www.ago.net/abex-about ). We had a great time in the exhibit talking about Pollock, Rothko, Kline, Reinhardt, and others.
After the tour we went out to the Grange Park where we did a really fun art activity. Prior to the tour we split the group into three smaller teams: Rothko, Pollock and Kline. In the park they were given a multitude of art supplies to create their own work inspired by their artist: paint, brushes, sticks, spray and squeeze bottles, glue, ribbon tissue paper, crepe paper, felt, sponges. With permission I am sharing some of their wonderful creations here; it was so difficult to pick only a few! Perhaps I can share more in a later post. Such lovely memories of a wonderful summer morning getting paint under our nails in the protective shade of Grange Park.
|Inspired by Jackson Pollock's drip paintings|
|Another piece from a member of the Pollock group, using drip techniques and a finger-painted line, inspired by Pollock's use of handprints in his work|
|A piece inspired by Franz Kline - the artist definitely embodied "action painting"|
|Another Franz Kline inspired piece using tactile elements. Crepe paper painted to create even more texture, ribbon and yarn affixed to the canvass.|
|A Rothko inspired work with brilliant colour fields|
|Jointly inspired by Rothko and Pollock this reminds me of a Japanese garden|