OMAHA – Cindy White never believed she was creative until she lost her eyesight 22 years ago.
“When I was sighted, I did art but it was in a very controlled and calculated way,” she said. “Once I lost my eyesight, I lost my need to control my creative self.”
Her creations are among the pieces in a new UNO Art Gallery exhibit that challenges how people think about art. “Sensory: Please Touch the Art” will be on display from Thursday, Oct. 6 through Thursday, Nov. 10.
The gallery will feature nationally-curated art meant for more senses than sight, tactile interpretations of classic art, and artwork created at four art workshops for the visually impaired, which were held at UNO over the summer. The name of the exhibit says it all: this art is meant to be touched.
“As opposed to getting six inches away and alarms go off, we want people to interact with the art,” said Jeremy Johnson, art education professor at UNO.
The idea started with a conversation with his wife, Lisa Johnson, director of Student Support Services at Nebraska Methodist College. He’s an artist and she’s visually impaired, which can make conversations about art complicated.
“When we go into galleries, they’re not accessible,” Jeremy said. “She can’t see the placards on the wall. She can’t touch the artwork, so she can’t experience what’s up there.”
They started talking. How can we make art accessible?
What started as an idea for a gallery show grew, eventually leading not only to plans for an exhibit, but also creation of the art workshops.
Over four weeks, visually impaired participants tried foam sculpture, weaving, pottery, even drawing. With each class, instructors had to get creative. After all, how do you explain a concept like perspective to someone who has never seen before?
Activities such as tracing objects with foam noodles, then fingers, helped the group understand why objects in the distance appear to have less detail than those in the foreground.
“The activities were so creative and made it simple to visualize things,” participant Kenda Slavin said. Like White, her art will also be on display at this exhibit.
The exhibition will include high contrast placards and audio descriptions for some pieces. The goal is to make art accessible to everyone.
“From my understanding there have been very few completely accessible art exhibitions and I’m very grateful that UNO has allowed us to take this on, because this is a huge undertaking,” Jeremy said. “I’m just really looking forward to creating more dialogue on who the art is for and how we approach teaching it.”
The gallery will open with a reception on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., followed by a keynote presentation from Ann Cunningham, artist and instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Cunningham will discuss her tactile artwork, including the interpretations which will be on display at the exhibit.
Wednesday, Nov. 2 at noon, tactile artist Rosalyn Driscoll will present a lecture in the gallery, titled “Aesthetic Touch.”
Metropolitan Community College Artist and Art Instructor Jamie Burmeister curated the exhibit, with assistance from the Johnsons, Cunningham and Gallery Coordinator Denise Brady.
The UNO Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the Weber Fine Arts Building on the west side of UNO's Dodge Street Campus. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Appointments at other times are encouraged. Call the gallery at 402.554.2796 during regular hours for more information or to schedule an appointment.
All gallery events are free and open to the public and the gallery is accessible to guests with disabilities.
The art workshops were made possible with assistance from the Nebraska Arts Council, WhyArts?, Omaha Association of the Blind, Outlook Nebraska, Inc., Pamela Duncan (interpreter), and volunteer student interpreters from UNO.
For media requests, please contact:
Sam Petto, UNO Media Relations Coordinator
Charley Reed, UNO Associate Director of Media Relations
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.