Have you ever thought of wrapping your body in soft, sculptural form or lay your hands on the canvas? From scratch-and-sniff-style paintings to 3D images accompanied by sounds multisensory art is a tiny but rapidly growing niche within the world of museums. Although these exhibits attract many types of patrons museum and artist are now collaborating with visually impaired and blind people to consider how art can be presented in their venues.
Exhibits that encourage visitors to engage with artworks beyond the scope of sight are likely to alter perceptions about the concept of fine art, according to experts. Artists are eagerly accepting the challenge as they did with an exhibit recently titled “Please Touch the Art” in Watertown, Massachusetts, which included 52 art pieces that were created to be interacted with.
The Reason We wrote This
What happens when you touch the experience of visiting museums? Artists and curators are working with visually impaired visitors to create artwork that goes beyond the visual – and will benefit everyone who visits.
When visitors use all five senses, they can better understand the intention of the artist, says Georgina Kleege, a professor of creativity and disabilities in the University of California, Berkeley. She believes that although museums that offer informational experiences like audio tours are useful but multisensory experiences are much more satisfying for visually impaired and blind visitors.
“Really it’s only by touching which … every one of aspects of the work are let out,” says Professor Kleege.
Do you ever dream of wrapping your body in soft sculptural piece or move your hands across the canvas? From scratch-and-sniff art to 3D images accompanied by sound multisensory art is a tiny but growing segment within the museum industry and is providing artists with possibilities to explore various ways to let viewers engage with and be influenced by their work.
For instance the London’s Tate Britain Museum featured “Sensorium,” which included tastes of sounds, smells, and tastes created to stimulate feelings as well as make certain hues appear more vivid. In 2014 The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York worked with a guest artist to create “Multisensory Met,”” which brought scent and sound to tiny copies of their iconic sculptures. Recently, in Watertown, Massachusetts, the Dorothy and Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts allows visitors to come close and personal with touching and smelling pieces of art work in “Please Feel the Art.”
These kinds of exhibitions are a hit with all kinds of patrons Museums and artists are increasingly working with members of visually impaired and blind communities to consider the way art is displayed in their space.
The Reason We wrote This
How can touch alter the experience of visiting museums? Artists and curators are working with visually impaired people to create art that extends beyond sight and is beneficial to everyone who visits.
“Instead of stepping into a museum, only to have it become a solitary museum with nothing happening, a multisensory exhibit] helps bring the museum into life” states Norma Crosby who is the director of National Federation of the Blind of Texas who has had a meeting with museums. “It certainly empowers museums to think of new ways to make their exhibits more interactive.”
Exhibits such as “Please Feel the Art” and other exhibits aren’t only about touching artwork, but also about interacting with the viewer. It’s about creating an unforgettable experience for museum visitors of all ages by encouraging them to engage the five senses and connect more deeply with the artist’s intent, according to Georgina Kleege who teaches creativity and disabilities studies in the University of California, Berkeley. While informational encounters can be helpful like audio-guided tours, artistic experiences are more satisfying for both blind and visually impaired art lovers.
“Really it’s when you touch the art the way … all characteristics of the artwork are revealed,” says Professor Kleege who juried and organized “Please Feel the Art.” Professor Kleege blind, believes that these tactile interactions are essential to exhibiting interaction.
Visit the Illusionaries installation for examples of multisensory art.
John Olson, founder of 3D Photoworks in New York is in agreement. John. Olson develops touchable versions of the most famous works for museums across the country. The 3-D works incorporate braille-written descriptions and textured surfaces. They also include sound effects that are activated by touch, and occasionally even smell. In his version of “George Washington crossing the Delaware” the audio element lets viewers to hear water splashing against the creaking wood while an narrator tells stories about the moment.
“The smell stimulant is extremely potent,” says Mr. Olson. “When you are able to detect the smell of water or and when you smell gunfire, it aids to … to create the mental picture.”
The project in Watertown, “Please Touch the Art” originated from an idea from a designer who wanted reconsider how to communicate the meaning to different viewers”, says Aneleise Ruggles director of the exhibits in the Mosesian Center. The idea of thinking beyond the visual was a challenge accepted with enthusiasm by 40 artists who came up with 52 works for “Please Touch the Art.”
“Inherently visual art isn’t a method of engaging with the art,” says Ms. Ruggles. “We think of”‘Please Touch The Art’ as] less of an exhibit that is geared towards blind people. We see it better as an exhibition that does not exclude those that are visually impaired or with poor vision.”
The addition of a new dimension of interaction to art fosters shared experiences between patrons, by encouraging conversation and interaction, she says that visitors can discuss the sensory aspects of the artwork.
“That individuals of all abilities and with all kinds of interests and viewpoints are able to see and be a part of the same art work is a huge benefit for our society,” she says. Ruggles.
The final week in “Please Be a Touch” some patrons who have visual impairments seemed especially at. First, they shook their hands and were able to pass over the bright, cool and sharp-edged tiles that resembled the wide-eyed fish from John Cummiskey’s “Go Fish.”
One man was drawn by the textured blue canvas in Michael Moss and Claudia Ravaschiere’s “Whirl.” While he walked his fingers across the canvas, a soft synthesizer sounds followed his movements, forming an original composition.
At the end of the tour, everyone were no longer shy regarding touching the pieces. they were able to encourage each other as they wrapped themselves in the form of a hanging felt piece and velvet stuffed with.
In the front on Julia Cseko’s “Embracers,” one visitor carried a long bat-filled arm, before lacing the soft fingers of her own before passing it over to her companion, wrapping her black, velvety arms around the neck of his as she turned her arm like a boa.
Exhibits that let patrons interact with artworks could alter the perception of what is called fine art, however it will not be done in a single day, according to Professor Kleege. “Art patrons along with art historians, critics, and curators need to think of innovative ways of understanding the concept of art and the ways it can accomplish,” as well as “a way to discuss the work of artists when they create works that are intended to be touching.”