5520 Projects

Life of Design Game:
Group Mates: Amber Walsh and Gibb Thimamontri
In this project we presented to the class our interpretation  of the process of Design from the beginning, STEEP(P) and stakeholders. We presented in via slides as well as a board game. On the game classmates chose a card that gave them a scenario (something to design) and as they rolled the dice they would land on various squares. If they landed on a colored square they would have to draw a card. The cards were examples of a STEEP or Stakeholder. The player would then have a minute to discuss the impact that particular STEEP or Stakeholder would have on their design. The white squares would allow them to advance or take them back depending on the scenario on the square. The point of the game was to see how much of our slide presentation was absorbed by the group as well as to create a dialogue.

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Lit Review: What would a more inclusive art museum look like?
When people think of community many words come to mind: togetherness, respect, sharing, inclusion. An art museum is a key element to a community. It is a space where people can share creativity, culture and find knowledge in other’s perspectives.  It is a gathering place for the community.1 The art inside a museum has the potential to act as a conduit. It can connect people, spark dialogue, reinforce relationships and in some cases sever them. Art has power.2 If museums were to harness this power with the mission to strengthen a community the possibilities could be enormous for patrons as well as the institution itself. I am proposing that museums consider reinventing the way they engage visitors so that a community, such as the disabled, can benefit. It is ironic that a community including artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Toulouse Lautrec and Matisse 3 is so underrepresented when curators and program directors plan for their patron’s experience.

This is an example of a mini version of a glass sculpture done by David Chihuly. The original version of this was located at the Dallas Arboretum and visitors were able to view it but not touch. The idea for creating miniatures was so that people who are visually impaired can feel the general shape of the art piece featured.

Curators will first need to consider what inclusion means according to the disabled community and how that translates in the exhibits and environment of a museum. Inviting people with disabilities to share their experiences and obstacles4 would give insight on how to adjust or overhaul museum programming.  Some museums have already taken steps in this direction.5 Dirk Vom Lehn’s journal addresses how visually impaired people (VIP) experience art in a museum with the help of a sighted guide. He mentions a social inclusion initiative gaining momentum in the UK after a newly elected Labour government was concerned with the lack of access people with mental or physical challenges had to public resources. This mindset will need to become the normative agenda for museums if inclusion is going to be successful; this agenda can translate in the exhibits and programming chosen.

Art that uses multiple senses would allow a patron, especially someone with a disability, more affordances to experience the art. Artists such as Peter De Cupere use multisensory media to evoke reaction from the viewer. In his piece “Tree Virus,” viewers enter a plastic dome filled with peppermint and black pepper causing them to immediately tear up.6

Another area is how the artwork is supplemented so that a viewer can get the most out of it. The “Talking about . . . Disability and Art” exhibit at The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery assigned 4 to 5 levels of interpretation to various paintings.  There are audio and visual points at each of the paintings. The artists supplied personal stories and a description is given for each piece. The collaboration of this exhibit involved disabled artist, viewers, museum staff and language specialists. The project fostered a dialogue among group members revealing the sensitivity and complexity of an inclusive art exhibit.7

Programming can also provide an opportunity for inclusion. Some museums, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Dallas Museum of Art, give tours for people with disabilities and host interactive workshops. In Lehn’s article, tactile objects are crucial in helping a visually impaired person (VIP) make connections with the art. At the museum he observed, sited guides described the art while VIP’s were encouraged to touch a sculpture representing an item in the painting.8 The act of creating art, getting hands-on, is a way of furthering the experiencing. It also allows for relationships to form and reinforces the sense of community.9

A museum’s environment can be less than inviting for some patrons regardless of ability. Barriers restrict access and low volume levels do not encourage conversation. According to Nina Simon, this can change by asking questions via technology that accompanies the art. Artwork is meant to encourage dialogue. It allows us to connect to strangers. It can reinforce our sense of community.

The use of multiple senses seems to be a theme when considering how the disabled consume art. A multimodal approach to exhibits and programming might be the key to bridging the gap between art and the disabled community.  Duncum’s article ‘An Eye for an I’ stresses the importance of our senses and that we should not rely only on sight. All of our senses play a role in how we perceive our surroundings. Some people will even experience the same situation differently because of their internal hierarchy of senses.10 There is also the argument that artwork is inherently multimodal and to rely solely on one sense while discounting the others would shortchange a person’s experience of the art.11

This is another example of a miniature replication of a Dave Chihuly piece at the Dallas Arboretum.

The benefits to creating a multimodal museum seem apparent although there are clear obstacles. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s blog addresses “Why We Don’t Touch the Art.” The delicacy of the artwork has to be considered. Oils from our fingers can alter the art or create a build up of dirt. Sculptures could be delicate because of their age or construction. It is necessary that the art be protected and when creating experiences for the disabled curators will need to take that into consideration.

Museums have an opportunity to reevaluate their mission to ensure the inclusion of all people in a community it serves. It is possible to facilitate a better experience for its patrons through innovative exhibits and programming. These experiences can foster a stronger sense of community and help build relationship between the disabled and the museum.

Notes:

  1. Parman, “Museum’s Community Role.”
  2. Kay, “Art and Community development,” 414.
  3. Webb, Disabled Artists in History.”
  4. Pattenden, “Disabled Community Inclusion.”
  5. Lehn, “Discovering ‘Experience-ables’” 749.
  6. Frank. “Peter De Cupere.”
  7. “Disability and Inclusion Curricula.”
  8. Lehn. “Discovering ‘Experience-ables’” 765.
  9. Reid and Anderson, “Experiences of Disabled,” 45.
  10. Duncum, “ An Eye Does,” 184.
  11. Nanay,  “The Multimodal Experience,” 355.

Bibliography

 

Mini-Ethnography Study: Voter apathy among 18 to 24 year-olds.
Group Mates: Lisa Mercer and Gibb Thimamontri