Braille Monitor                                                   January 2010

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In 2009 the NFB commissioned Denver artist Ann Cunningham to create a hands-on, accessible mural in honor of Louis Braille’s two hundredth birthday and our national Braille Readers are Leaders (BRL) campaign. Ms. Cunningham came to NFB headquarters in November 2009 to affix the final pieces to the tactile mural. When the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar was officially released at a ceremony held at the NFB Jernigan Institute on March 26, guests in attendance were kept in suspense about the message and design of this mystery artwork. As panels have been added to this forty-segment work, the artist's creative imagination has expressed the spirit of Louis Braille, our BRL campaign, and the infinite possibilities that universal literacy will bring to the lives of blind people. The completed artwork is now on permanent display in the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the NFB Jernigan Institute.

Choosing various symbols to represent knowledge, Ann made the entire 8.5-by-2.5-foot horizontal mural out of fired-tile giant puzzle pieces. In the mural from left to right the viewer can see and touch a full-color bust of a blue-suited Louis Braille facing right; six Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollars forming a Braille cell (the dot one and three coins Braille-side up and the other four portrait-side up, creating the Braille contraction for the word "knowledge"; a young boy, dressed in a red T-shirt, brown pants, and beige tennis shoes, sitting on the ground, using both hands to read a Braille book in his lap, a long white cane resting against his right shoulder. On the book pages appears the word "is" in giant Braille characters. Arching over the boy, seven white stars create the Big Dipper. To the right of the boy three giant Braille cells spell “power.” At the right side a red and white rocket with Whozit painted on its lowest section rides its long contrail, nosecone pointed at the large North Star.

In the top right puzzle piece, high above everything, its silver body and gold solar wings vivid against the dark blue, the Hubble Telescope floats. From bottom left to top right, the background colors change from the soft greens and blues of Earth to the darkest blues and purples of outer space, with the boy at the changing point.

Ann Cunningham checks the fit for the last puzzle piece before gluing it in place.

The bas relief mural, now completely assembled

Her job finished, Ann Cunningham sits at a table in the Jacobus tenBroek Library before heading home to Denver.

A close-up of the boy in the mural reading a Braille book

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