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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sensory Encounter -- Access to Museums and Galleries for the disabled



Every grade school usually has a time for experiencing the arts. Most of us can remember the fun of finger painting: how it felt, slimy and cool to the touch; how it smelled, and some of us even how it tasted. We learned the basics of creativity and how to cover the slick white paper with fingerprint smears in less than five seconds flat

Learning is always enhanced when we stimulate our five senses with color, sound, smell, taste and touch. For hundreds of years, the art experience has only been for the few.  It has only been in recent years that museums, art galleries and nature have been made available for the sensory impaired and the disabled.

My first exposure to a tactile garden prepared specifically for those who were blind was in Minnesota. Here the seeing impaired visitor was able to touch and smell the leaves, petals and stems without fear of being pricked by a thorn. Some plants were there specifically for the tasting. Walkways were kept unobstructed and safe so people could walk, use a wheelchair or sit down to rest.
Unfortunately, most museums don’t allow touching of sculptures and galleries discourage the touching of paintings because the oils from our skin may eventually leave a soiled mark that promotes disintegration. People are generally curious and want to touch areas of sheen and smoothness or patches that look rough even though it may be an illusion. Today more and more cities are opening sensory gardens and museum areas where disabled children and adults may enjoy acoustics, music, fragrance, light, and texture.
(Seeing impaired students are allowed to feel texture)

 From "Magical Gardens for the Blind, Deaf, and Disabled" The Daily Beast, by Elizabeth Piciuto

 “When I walk into the Stephen Knolls School’s greenhouse, cheerfully bright even on an overcast day, the humidity frizzes my hair into a delirious halo. The school’s principal, Kim Redgrave, is explaining the school’s gardening program to me when three boys who are maybe 10 to 12 years old join us. Two of them are in wheelchairs. The third walks unsteadily, led by a grown-up holding his hand. I try to catch the eye of this third boy, but he plops down onto a stool and avoids my gaze. I turn to one boy who rewards me with a giant, hammy smile.

“They are here to measure their plants,” explains their teacher. From the looks of the seedlings in their plastic pots, the boys have planted their seeds just a few weeks ago, and they are growing vigorously.

“Just a few years ago, I hate to admit that in my total ignorance of disability, I would have assumed that these boys were barely aware of their environments. More attuned, I now see how all three boys become absorbed in their plants’ progress.
“Reams of research demonstrate that gardens and plant care can help students with disabilities develop crucial knowledge, skills, emotional regulation, and self-reliance: those with less intensive disabilities, more intensive disabilities, cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities. Even children without disabilities, for that matter, experience the same benefits. 
“Spending time in gardens can reduce the need for medication in children with ADHD,” Sachs pointed out, even after walks that last just 20 minutes.
“As a result of this research, there has been a growing movement to include what are known as “sensory gardens” in many schools for children with disabilities, as well as many botanical gardens in children’s hospitals. Sensory gardens are gardens that are designed not only to be accessible to people with disabilities, such as having winding paths appropriate for wheelchairs, but to “systematically and sensitively nourish the five basic senses,” says Amy Wagenfeld, professor of occupational therapy at Rush University and one of the authors of the forthcoming bookTherapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Such gardens provide opportunities to see, smell, touch, listen to—and sometimes taste—plant life and garden fixtures, such as scented herbs, smooth river rocks, or velvety lamb’s ears.” 

“In a workshop using scent in art, I learned that the same scent can smell differently if given a different label, such as cheese or vomit; or by changing the color of lights in an olfactory art sculpture from red to blue. In the round table "Putting Theory into Practice," several museum curators and educators, spoke about personalizing the museum experience and creating multisensory exhibits. John Bramblitt, an artist who lost his sight, had to find new ways to do his art again by using other senses and art materials. He brought in some of his paintings, where I was able to feel the contrast of a smooth plastic background and the raised ridges of his acrylic paint.

“The last day of the conference, I went on a verbal description and touch tour at the Whitney Museum, led by Danielle Linzer, where we viewed an abstract painting, "The Magnificent," by Richard Pousette-Dart, which we were able to touch after donning silk gloves. I was amazed by the amount of texture I could feel on the painting, which I was unaware of when I just looked at the piece.” 
 Japanese sensory museum http://youtu.be/pCcIbL0AyCo 
Opening of the exhibition "Sensory Journey" , conception and paintings by Silvana Di Martino, photos by Michel Versepuy and music soundtrack by Denis Barbier. in Paris 2011 the 13th of October. at the space Altura near La Bastille.

The exhibition presents a new concept, "the synaesthetic exhibition". What is a synaesthetic exhibition, you might ask? Well, it is a physical experience of sensory signals interacting with each other (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustative). 
By simulating sensations, other senses are awakened and brought to life. The paintings were meant to be touched and observed.   http://youtu.be/5-f9m40qhlQ
 
Most museums and art galleries have “do not touch signs” everywhere. Try it and you’ll find a docent or guide looking over your shoulder “Do not touch the paintings,” they warn which is why these sensory gardens, galleries and museums are catching on everywhere.

You’ll enjoy this video. “Good Mythical Morning” “Don’t Touch the Art.” \Gotta’ love these guys! http://youtu.be/IbT7xNf9zXQ