What Is Awareness Month

This is a time when museums, schools, libraries and sighted and blind people from around the world come together to jointly address the problem of making pictorial literacy and access to the world of art a reality for all blind people.

Many people believe erroneously that art is primarily a matter of visual appreciation.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president, National Federation of the Blind

Conventional wisdom predetermines what blind and visually impaired people can and cannot do. It predetermines a lack of interest in the field on the part of these people and has denied them the experience of learning about art and architecture… One and a half decades ago there were few who dared to think that a difference could be made in this field. Today in many countries very appealing initiatives have arisen.
Pedro Zurita, former Secretary General, World Blind Union, Madrid, Spain

Why Awareness Month:

Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month is an outreach effort on all levels, operating simultaneously within and across institutions, within and across communities. It is an opportunity for professionals and institutions to raise public awareness about making art and culture a part of life for adults and children affected by sight loss. During Awareness Month, we can educate parents, teachers, school administrators, recreational counselors, librarians and museums about the benefits of art education and museum visits for children and adults with sight loss; for example, art can be a powerful tool in fostering Braille literacy.

The collaborative seeks to empower community institutions to create long-lasting visual arts programming, by offering proven methodologies, by training staff on accessibility and sensitivity, and by inviting local blind and sighted people to participate in educational and inclusion activities.

Training is a crucial element of Awareness Month. The collaborative will provide an annual full-day crash course on program-planning basics, sensitivity training and other skills. Join us to jump-start your program or brush up your skills. Art Beyond Sight also holds regular telephone conferences and meetings to discuss issues and brainstorm strategies and solutions.

All this must part of a two-pronged approach: institutional development and outreach to individuals. Many blind people do not feel welcome at museums or simply do not view themselves as museum-goers or artists, and do not take advantage of even the most-developed, up-to-date programs. However, once involved in the arts, many people with sight loss find museum-going a rewarding activity that opens up a range of new experiences possible through art. Thus, while assisting educators and museums to develop programs and provide resources, Art Beyond Sight Collaborative and Awareness Month also provides ways to let blind people know about arts programming in a way that encourages their participation.

Goals of the Art Beyond Sight Collaborative:

The collaborative’s primary goal is to make art accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. To this end, AEB formulates, evaluates, documents, and disseminates research findings, as well as print and multisensory educational programs and materials, relative to rendering art-making, art appreciation, cultural history, and aesthetics accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

The Art Beyond Sight Around the World Collaborative recognizes that art education and exposure to the arts are crucial for advancement of many key issues in the education and rehabilitation of people who are blind. ArtWorks is a series of initiatives designed to use art as a tool in overcoming many of the daily living issues faced by people who are blind. Those initiatives include: the community participation through the arts program, art therapy and self-expression through the arts, skills development through the arts, full intellectual access to the world of art, collaborative learning through the arts, employment in the arts and at museums, and art into curriculum.

Art Beyond Sight Collaborative: Mission and History Sheet

In order to make art accessible to people who are visually impaired, it is essential to involve all facets of the community right from the start: museums and arts institutions, educators, and other resource providers, as well as the various communities of blind and visually impaired individuals. If museums develop programs and do not reach out to their community, the programs die out before they can develop an audience. If blind people are educated about what they could experience in museums before programs are available, they become discouraged and lose interest. Outreach and program development must be simultaneous; materials need to be prepared as people are preparing to use them. Only then can true and long-lasting progress be made.

 

That’s where Art Beyond Sight comes into play. We are a collaboration of researchers, blind people, educators, tactile graphics experts, and people from many other related fields. Internationally, the collaborative provides a forum for ongoing interdisciplinary dialogues among researchers and practitioners, who share expertise and materials. On the local level, Art Beyond Sight assists museum professionals and other educators, parents, artists, and art lovers to create vehicles for lasting change in their communities.

In this field, museums, schools (both public schools and residential schools for blind people), advocacy groups of blind people, libraries for blind people, and university research facilities are the main partnering institutions. We will achieve lasting change only through a team effort on the part of people who are blind and visually impaired, museum educators, classroom teachers, and local community agencies that represent blind people and their families.

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