In 2005 my husband and I attended an event in Shreveport, LA called ArtBreak. It was a huge weeklong celebration of the arts for public schools in the area. We were asked to attend and host a table to share my husband’s story (he is a blind painter) and to paint with the kids. This event sparked the creation of some exciting and innovative workshops that we now do with various museums around the country including the Dallas Museum of art the Meadows Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
These workshops are a hand on approach to art and have received three presidential volunteer awards. The people that attend them are encouraged to use their other senses besides sight to really engage in the artistic process. One of the popular activities we do is blindfold the participant and have them paint without using their sight. We start with a raised line drawing of something simple such as a boat or flower and then give them a palette of different colored paints consisting of different textures. For example, we will put sand in red so that it feels gritty and bird seed in yellow so it is lumpy. The participant is then expected to navigate their canvas using touch and paint via texture.
We have done these activities with thousands of kids, artists and teachers over the years and each session teaches us something new about how people interpret their own abilities and their perspective on the world around them. One example of this has always stood out to me was when we were doing a workshop in Corpus Christi with over 150 blind children and their sighted siblings. Two brothers were seated next to each other painting; one of them was sighted and the other was blind. They were both painting their house. The sighted boy was painting the stereotypical square house with the triangle peak and a tree while the blind boy was painting the floor plan of the house. I was fascinated by the difference in perspective these two brothers had.
The original hope for the workshops was to show children what it is like to have a disability and that it should not hinder their accomplishments in life. As we did more of them and opened it up to adults and educators it has transformed into a therapeutic and educational process for everyone involved.