The value of art goes beyond the paints, the colors, the canvas or the clay, the value of art is in the connection between the individual and the piece, no matter their physical ability. Art is about more than you can see. Visual arts can be a vital part of life for a visually impaired individual, just like it can be for people who do not. After all, art is about the experience. Programs, like Art Beyond Sight, are taking an initiative to make art accessible, to everyone, everywhere.
Art Beyond Sight is an international initiative to promote the arts for those who have visual impairments or no vision at all, with over 200 organizations all around the world. Part of the initiative is art education, Art Education for the Blind. The benefits of an art education for the visually impaired are largely the same of those who can see. Working with art promotes dexterity, self-confidence, critical thinking skills and self-awareness. Being able to work with visual elements helps to teach the blind and visually impaired different skills to be successful and more confident in a visual world.
Blind people are able to understand visual information through touch and sound, art is a way to help enhance how the blind understand the world around them through pictorial literacy. Imagine trying to learn about the heart without looking at a diagram. A teacher’s explanation may not be enough for a student. However, if the student has experience with pictorial literacy, the diagram of the heart may be easier to tackle.
Arts organizations right here in Indianapolis are making a difference in the lives of the blind when it comes to getting crafty. The Indianapolis Art Center for example works with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to formulate an arts curriculum for their students. The Center also offers a ten week after school ceramics program during the fall and spring semesters to blind and visually impaired students. This program has been in existence for 16 years. The ages range from middle school to grade 12. In conjunction with Art Beyond Sight Awareness month-October, the Center will be showcasing student work from the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, beginning October 14 and will run until November 10.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art also strives to make itself more accessible to the blind and visually impaired community, offering many amenities to make the facility and the art easier to access. Docent-led tours including audio description and guided touch are available upon request with at least three weeks notice. Braille is on all Museum directional signs and in elevators. Special exhibition labels are available in a variety of sizes, including large font and service animals are welcome.
Art is meant to be enjoyed by all. Simple adjustments, such as guided touch tours or ceramics classes allow everyone to have a chance to experience visual delights, even if they cannot see them.