Cummer Museum commemorates International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Cummer Museum commemorates International Day of Persons with Disabilities
During a Dec. 3 visit to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Meredith Brown holds a friend’s daughter, who is fascinated by the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind artwork on display.

To celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities Dec. 3, the Cummer Museum showcased two special exhibits: the annual Women of Vision show and paintings from visually impaired students at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB).

The Women of Vision program, which includes monthly art making and literary arts workshops for blind or low vision adult women, was instituted by the museum in 1998. In celebration of Art Beyond Sight month, the women have a chance to highlight their work with an annual exhibit beginning in October.

Museum Educator and Accessibility Coordinator Matthew Patterson has been involved in the Women of Vision program for the past four years.

One of the challenges in working with the visually impaired is finding ways the artists can be more independent, Patterson said, adding that when painting on a canvas, a string can be tied around the canvas to create a horizon line that the artists can use to “touch and feel” their way around the canvas. Paint can be placed in different containers, such as a glass jar for one color and a plastic cup for another, so that the artists can make their own choices and work much more independently, he explained.

The museum also is designated as the Jacksonville affiliate of VSA, an international organization that provides opportunities in the arts for individuals with disabilities.

As part of the 2016 VSA outreach program, Patterson worked with FSDB blind or low vision elementary and middle school stu-dents for 12 weeks on art projects including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture and ceramics. At the end of the program, the students took a field trip to the museum and participated in a “touch tour,” a hands-on tour of some of the museum’s sculptures.

Some of the students’ work is currently on display at the museum as part of the annual VSA Festival.

“The kids loved it,” Patterson said of working with the students. “They would come in and be interested in what we were going to be doing and making and, more or less, all of them were successful with the projects they came up with.”

Working with students from FSDB differed from the participants in the Women of Vision program because that program is comprised of older adults who lost their vision later in life.

“Their experience with art is a little bit different because they still have memories of color, they still have memories of visual things they’ve seen in their life,” Patterson said.

In contrast, some of the young students Patterson works with at the FSDB were born blind.

“Their work is pretty different; it’s not as focused on realism or concrete objects,” he said. “It’s a little bit more loose and abstract in some cases.”

In addition to Women of Vision and the VSA outreach program, the museum partners with the HEAL Foundation, a local nonprofit for individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders.

The museum was recently recognized for its disability programming, receiving the 2016 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts “Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Community Asset Award” and “The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs 2016 “Diversity and Inclusion Award,” funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The Museum has long advocated that all people who have an interest in arts and gardens should have access to these resources,” said Holly Keris, chief operating officer and chief curator of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. “From arts education for students, to access for those limited by their ability to pay admission fees, to individuals whose disability makes it impossible to experience a museum in the same way that others can, the Cummer Museum remains committed to developing new and innovative opportunities for everyone in the spirit of Mrs. Cummer’s original vision to create ‘a center of beauty and culture worthy of the community.’”

The Women of Vision exhibit will be on display at the museum through Jan. 29, 2017, and the FSDB artwork will be on display through May 2017.

By Carrie Resch
Resident Community News

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