At this impressive ACC exhibit, patrons are asked to touch the art to get to know it

Geraldine Smith, Arapahoe Pinnacle Editor

Patrons attending an exhibit are seldom allowed to smell or touch the art.

But they were at the “Shared Visions” exhibit at the Colorado Gallery of Arts just before Fall Break. The idea seems as alien as being allowed to sing along during a musical or hum a few bars of Beethoven at the symphony.

Ryan Fling "The Touch of Sight"
Ryan Fling
“The Touch of Sight”

As unusual as it sounds, tactile participation at this exhibit was socially acceptable.

At the “Shared Visions,” a collaborative effort by the Colorado Center for the Blind and ACC, guests were encouraged to touch and smell this “fully accessible exhibit.”

The art, created specifically for this show by art teacher Nathan Abels’ first-year students, was a multi-sensory and tactile experience with pictures of snow that were cold to the touch, art with a scent of sandalwood and the lamp in a painting radiating warmth.

“It is inspiring and it is a learning experience, really human, connecting people with people,” he said.

Braille on one side of each display card, visual text on the other.
Braille on one side of each display card, visual text on the other.

Visual text and Braille on the tags attached to each painting help students fully understand what they are experiencing through touch and smell.

Abels feels the exhibit creates great communication between different groups of people like ACC students and students from the Center because it is all vocal.

Last year, the exhibit was held in the Janzten Gallery in the Art and Design Center, but it proved too small a venue. Abels decided to hold this year’s event in the Colorado Gallery of Arts on the main campus because attendance was greater than expected last year with students, family and friends eager to view the art.

Abels explained that the sighted walk into a gallery and take it all in, but these students must approach it painting by painting creating congestion as they move slowly from work to work. A larger room solves the problem.

Abels had to sacrifice the length of the show for greater exposure and more space because of gallery scheduling. He felt it was worth the trade-off.

Another reason for using the larger gallery, was the inclusion of ceramics in the exhibit this year. Students from the center actually came to the ACC campus to throw pots on the wheel and produced some beautiful pieces.

Especially impressive were the ceramic tiles created jointly by ACC students and students from the Center. Ceramics students joined students at the Center to create two sets of tiles. One set was representative of positive emotions and the other set expressed negative emotions. Interestingly, the ACC students wore sleep masks as they fashioned their tiles, and there was no appreciable difference in the tiles of students from the Center and students from ACC.

ACC students who created the art hanging on the walls, also practiced with blindfolds in the creation of their art for this display to be sure the art was “visible” to blind students.

“You need significant change in texture to feel it and so art students practiced with sleep masks to be sure there was a change. It is easy to see texture change, but hard to feel,” Abels said.

Even the refreshments were a collaborative effort. Food was prepared by students at the Center as well as Abels’ art students.

Anyone who missed the exhibit this year will have a chance to view it next year when it will be on display for two weeks, giving more people an opportunity to experience the continuing collaboration between ACC and the Colorado Center for the Blind.

For more information, please email Abels or call him at 303-797-5862.