Future Reflections                                                               Convention Report 2005

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Art and Emotions: A Tactile Art Activity

by Ann Cunningham

Hands working with a flat slab of clay.
Jenny Wing-Proctor of Michigan works on her clay mold.

Editor’s Note: Here is a report on one of the NOPBC-sponsored workshop activities offered to blind and sighted youth at the 2005 convention. The report is written by the artist who also conducted the workshop. For teachers who would like to duplicate this workshop, Cunningham provides a materials and techniques guide elsewhere in this issue. Here is what Cunningham says:

A lively bunch of students were happy to jump in and get their hands dirty in our 2005 Artistically Expressing Emotions workshop at the Galt House in Louisville. By making expressive art of their own, blind and sighted youngsters had the chance to explore one of the ways artists communicate artistically.

Artistically Expressing Emotions is a perfect art class activity for students with a wide variety of abilities. It is to everyone’s advantage to conduct this class under sleepshades since it is important to focus on internal feelings. By using sleepshades, all students are released from the pressure of making their work “look right.”

At the Colorado Center for the Blind, this course is taught in fifteen hours of class time and explores eight different emotions. We
follow that up with the creation of an original work of art of the students’ choosing. The last class is a field trip to a museum or park with access to art work.

In the Louisville 2005 workshop we modified this program and focused on learning the skills to work in water-based clay with hands and tools in a manner that allowed the students to first express “anger,” followed by a second piece exploring “joy.” Once the students were finished working in the clay, we used the clay as a mold to create a finished piece of artwork in plaster. After the plaster piece was freed from the clay mold, we lined up all the “angers” side by side on the table and talked about similarities and differences between each other’s work. We then did the same with “joy.”

Students gained insight into themselves through talking about how they expressed emotions in their art; and by comparing their work with other students, they learned more about their classmates. Finally, by applying this insight to artwork they experience in school or accessible collections, they can converse with artists and the world of art.

About Ann Cunningham

Ann Cunningham
Ann Cunningham stands next to her bas-relief exhibit of Erik Weihenmayer’s ascent of Mount Everest.

Ann Cunningham has been carving stone since she was fifteen years old, but it wasn’t until 1990 that she wondered if the slate low-relief sculptures she was making could be interpreted by touch as well as sight.

This question led Ann to explore how the sense of touch might be trained through art to gather more pictorial information. The bas-relief stories and exhibits that she has developed out of this exploration includes a commission for the National Federation of the Blind. It depicts Erik Weihenmayer’s ascent of Mount Everest as the first blind climber to reach the summit. Since 1998, Ann has been teaching art classes to develop self-expression through the sense of touch at the Colorado Center for the Blind. She has also started teaching a class on Picture Interpretation and Creation at the Anchor Center which serves children who are blind or visually impaired.

Cunningham is currently launching Sensational Books!, a series of original, visually and tactually accessible books. These multi-sensory books are designed to create an engaging experience and provide meaningful information for people of all abilities and ages. Sadie Can Count is the first book in a series which teaches basic picture recognition of common objects. Each subsequent book will expand the scope of the information provided by the pictures.

Ann’s sculptures can be viewed at <http://www. acunningham.com> and the books can be purchased at <www.SensationalBooks.com>.

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Insights Art Competition

InSights 2006, is an international competition of artwork by artists who are blind or visually impaired. Artists must be visually impaired to enter. Sponsored by the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), this will be the fifteenth year for the competition.

Participants range from preschool children to senior citizens, and include professional artists as well as hobbyists and school art classes. Artists must meet this definition of vision impairment: corrected vision of 20/200 in the better eye, or a field of vision of 20 degrees or less.

Deadline for entry for 2006 for preschool through high school is April 1, 2006. The deadline for adult artists is April 15. Rules and entry forms will be posted on the APH Web site by mid-February of 2006. For more information contact:

Roberta L. Williams
Public Relations and Special Projects Manager
American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
telephone: (800) 223-1839, extension 357
email: rwilliams@aph.org

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