Art Program at a School or Community Center for the Blind

Art Program at a School or Community Center for the Blind

In this chapter, museum professionals, educators, and artists will find the basics for starting a collaborative program with a school for the blind or a community center for the blind.  Also included are practical considerations and sample approaches from several schools for the blind around the world. We have provided checklists and agendas, as well as troubleshooting and funding tips.

Practical Considerations:

Contributors and Reviewers:
Ann Cunningham, in collaboration with Colorado Center for the Blind
Simon Hayhoe
Barry Kleider
Marketta Perttunen, The School for the Visually Impaired, Jyväskylä, Finland
Hiromi Shiba, Museo Archivo Caribbean University, Puerto Rico
Diane C. Woods, St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf
Elke Zollitsch, Munich, Germany

Program Basics

Benefits of the Art Program at a School or Center for the Blind…

...for museums.  Organizing an art program at a school or center for the blind has several benefits over doing it at your museum, including access to an established audience and marketing network, as well as conveniences in traveling and facility maintenance. While it may be possible to find attendees who are willing to travel for your program if it is held at an art therapy studio or at a museum, you are more likely to have a larger turnout at a place people who are blind and visually impaired visit regularly and are familiar with the course offerings. In addition, the school or center for the blind is a place where your audience feels comfortable and “at home.” This comfort level contributes to a stable group attendance, increases group trust, and gives participants an opportunity to focus more completely on the art-making process. You, also, will benefit from collaborating with the school/community center’s educators who work daily with children/adults with vision loss.

…for schools.  Art programs provide students with opportunities for developing skills and participating in a larger community, while educators can take advantage of museum resources and expertise. Collaboration with artist in residence provides opportunity for relationship building, inspiring creativity and exposing students to careers in the arts.

…for artists.  Funding and grants are often difficult to secure for individuals; collaborations with cultural or education institution are often well received by state arts councils.; Residencies frequently provide an art-making space and opportunity to build relationships within community.

Types of Programs.

Your program can include art making or studio work, art history, art appreciation or ideally, be a combination of these. Art history and art appreciation provide a useful context and source of inspiration for your art-making processes. The program can vary from a few weeks, a few months, or in the case of an artist residency, sometimes years. All ages can be included in this type of programming, from elementary and high school students, to a general adult audience.

Possible formats and topics include:

Find out what kinds of art or museum experiences your students or program participants have had. However, even more experienced art viewers can benefit by a general introduction to visual art vocabulary and concepts, such as perspective, light and shadow, and color theory. Allow adequate working time and an opportunity for discussion. We have included examples of how to explore these concepts, as well as how to develop critical thinking skills and personal expression through the creative process.

Approaching a School or Center for the Blind
The first step in organizing any sort of joint program is an introductory meeting with administrators and/or educators at the partnering institutions. In this meeting, explain the benefits an art-making program for people who are blind or visually impaired. This is your opportunity to excite and inspire them about your program, and thus to ensure success throughout the planning and execution of the course. Although flexibility is important in meeting the needs of each individual group, it is best to come to the first session prepared with a proposed course outline and session plan that addresses their particular students’ needs.

We have put together a Sample Agenda for your first meeting. Talking points for the meeting include the primary benefits to art-making activities:

Other topics for this meeting include defining the target audience for the program and proposing the program’s parameters, including the duration and scheduling of your program.

At the End of Your Art Program

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The Artist-in-residence

Consider establishing an artist-in-residence, a partnership between an individual artist and an educational or cultural institution. The artist residency can have many goals and benefits:

  1. Introduce the arts to students.
  2. Develop skills in other subject areas through the arts.
  3. Help educators create arts-infused education, or use the arts throughout their teaching, and give educators another tool for enriching their students’ learning experience.
  4. Develop independent living skills.
  5. Foster of sense of self-esteem.
  6. Encourage critical thinking strategies.
  7. Motivate the artist to create multi-sensory artworks.

Residencies can range from several days to several months or even several years. Teachers may be arts specialists, teaching in their discipline at a secondary level, or working with the full range of subjects in an elementary classroom. Residencies can take place in single or multiple classrooms, with single or multiple grades. Depending on the organizations involved, the artist(s) might work with students, give tours to the public, and/or organize an exhibition.

Artist residencies are a chance for everyone, including artists, teachers, and staff to think outside the box, to try new teaching methods, and to expand the sense of the possible.

Tips for a successful residency:

Funding and Resources:

Artist fees, supplies, and a studio space in which to work are usually included in a residency grant proposal. The museum or school may initiate this grant application process; if you are an artist, you may approach these institutions with a grant proposal. Federal and State Arts Councils and other organizations, such as VSA Arts may help you plan, fund, and implement a residency.

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
1029 Vermont Avenue, NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20005
tel: 202-347-6352
fax: 202-737-0526
TDD: 202-347-5948
On their Web site, you will find an “Arts over America” directory of state arts agencies, and regional arts organizations. The directory includes contact information and links to the organizations’ Web sites.

Two excellent resources in planning your artist residency include:

The book can be ordered free of charge; for more information visit the Dana Press website:

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Materials for an Art-making Program

With a few adaptations, the basics for an art-making program for students who are visually impaired are the same as for people with sight. You will find approaches, methods, and materials in chapter eight of Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment.  Additional resources include: the Art Beyond Sight Educators discussion groups or our Laboratory for Learning, where you can find lesson plans and tips.

A few ideas for a drawing and sculpture class…

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Sample Approach: Techniques for Experiencing Perspective

Colorado Center for the Blind
Colorado Center for the Blind

The following techniques and strategies represent some of the teaching experiences of Ann Cunningham, of the Loveland Museum and Gallery, Colorado, in collaboration with the Colorado Center for the Blind.

Six Techniques for Experiencing Perspective
(Developed in conjunction with John Kennedy – see Drawing and the Blind, by John Kennedy; Yale University Press, 1993, for more ideas)

  1. Student sits on a chair and holds arm and cane in straight line, allowing arm to pivot only at shoulder. Instructor stands close in front of student and allows student to rest cane atop instructor’s head. Instructor then steps back and tells student to let the cane continue to rest on head. As the instructor steps forward and back, the student will experience the seeming diminution of size as the instructor steps away. To more fully experience this phenomenon a second cane can be attached to the instructors shoe and the cane angle will diminish as the instructor steps away.
  2. Railroad tracks meet in the distance. Needs minimum five people. One person stands midway between two others standing approximately 20 feet apart or the width of a room. The other two people stand at the far end of the room each in opposite corners, or at the same distance apart as the first two. Instruct the first or closer set of people to hum or sing and ask the student placed midway between them to point to them. Then ask them to stop and have the other set sing. When the student points to them, he will experience his arms moving much closer together. If you have the space and students more increments of distance could be incorporated into this experiment. Change places so that each student experiences the experiment from the mid point vantage.
  3. Student holds a bottle or easily grasped object, 12 to 18 inches tall, with one hand. The other hand is placed midway on the object and then moves up the object to the top and then moves down the object to the bottom experiencing the two ends as separated by 180 degrees. The student then moves his hand away from the object by a couple of feet and then moves the hand to first the top of the bottle returning to this the same place and then moving their hand to the bottom of the bottle. He will easily see that their hand is making a much smaller angle from this vantage point.
  4. Outline experiments. What is outlining? In two-dimensional art, outlines are important to describing objects, but what is an outline? This experiment can and should be done on different scales, large scale can be with a cane held in a straight arm pivoting at the shoulder as in the first experiment. Have one student trace around another student by moving the cane gently around the outside contours. Have the students describe the positions of the other using only this information. When students use this on a small scale such as moving their finger around an object, they need to understand that they need to establish and stick to one vantage point for the entire object. OR what happens when you do change vantage points? That could be interesting, too! More like cubism.
  5. With the cane outlining exercise you can also experience overlapping of objects by placing them in such a way that one outline interrupts the other outline.
  6. In a landscape, once the sky and ground have been established, use two different sized silhouettes of the same object; we used horses. Once the other experiments have been done, the student can place the objects on the landscape and describe what the different sizes would mean in different positions. A big and small horse low in the picture frame would describe a large and small horse or mother and foal. A big horse low in the picture and a small high in the picture (but with feet still on the land) would describe two large horses: one close and one far away. Now, placing the small horse low and the large horse high describes a monstrously large horse: RUN!

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Sample Approaches: Exploring Sculpture: Stone, Clay, and Mixed Media

Ann Cunningham - Entry Page

Artist and Educator Ann Cunningham on Working with the Colorado Center for the Blind:

“I first went to the Center to ask for advice on a project I was doing with fairy tales, and I was then able to reciprocate with a project some students were working on. It was then near the holidays, and we did a couple of craft classes to make greeting cards and small presents. The administration of the Colorado Center for the Blind is so easy to work with that the class was evolved naturally out of my relationship with the Center.

“After working with them on the craft classes and existing projects, I suggested an art workshop, and eight students started in a stone carving class. The class was once a week for three hours for six weeks. We studied the tools and their uses and each student completed a small alabaster sculpture. The assignment was to create a piece with a flat side, a concave area, a convex area and an opening through the stone. These shapes were chosen because all sculpture is comprised of a composition of these basic elements, and creating this one piece would provide students with the skills to explore all possibilities. Then each piece was drilled, pinned, and glued to a base. The sculptures were completed in 15 hours. We held several field trips to the stone supplier, my stone studio, the Museum of Outdoor Arts and Hudson Gardens, which both have accessible art, and a large outdoor sculpture garden in Loveland, Colorado. The studio program worked towards the Center’s ideals by giving students self-confidence. They worked with powerful tools on difficult materials successfully. The students were also exposed to artwork in the larger community and integrated into that community by traveling and participating fully in activities with the general public.”


Plan 1 Stone Sculpture

Overview: Students study the tools used for and the process of alabaster carving.  Each completes one carving with specified features.
Length: Three hours once a week for six weeks.
Appropriate Ages: Twelve and above
Subtopics: Sculpture
Intelligences Being Addressed: Bodily/Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal, Verbal/Linguistic, and Visual/Spatial
Materials, Equipment, and Student Supplies:
Small stones (approximately 6x6x6 inches, random shapes foster creativity; alabaster and limestone recommended)
Wooden or stone bases
Point, tooth, and flat chisels; hammers; files; riflers; and wet and dry sand paper.
A drill with a mason’s bit that is a little larger than the diameter of your mounting pin for piercing the stone
A threaded rod for mounting, cut to length (circa two inches)
A wooden box (approximately eight inches square, three or four deep) filled with sand or sandbags to balance the stone (optional)
Safety equipment: eyeglasses, ear protectors, dust mask with two bands, leather or canvas protective gloves

Teacher References:
Direct Stone Sculpture Milt Liebson. Schiffer’s Publishing, Lmt. ISBN 0-88740-305-0. 

Instructional Objectives or Enduring Understanding:
Students will:

Instructional Plan:
One session should be devoted, if possible, to a field trip choosing the stones.  The first in-house session is a discussion of the names and uses of tools with a demonstration on the proper way to hold them and then working the stone to create one large, overall shape without creating any details. The second lesson begins identifying where the student wants to put his primary elements. The next sessions continue refining and adding any detail the sculpture should have. Areas to be smoothed should be sanded starting with 80-grit and progressing through 400-grit sandpaper. Explore texturing with different chisel points or files. Drill about an inch into the stone or the appropriate depth for the pin. Using a solid epoxy (wearing rubber gloves), glue the pin into the stone.  Pack some epoxy into the pin before you put the pin into the hole. Use clear carnauba wax or wax sealer to finish the stone; make sure to get recommendations from your supplier first, because some stones react differently.

Assessment or Reflection:
At the last session have students fill out assessment forms asking for short answers on what worked and what could have been done better. Also ask for longer testimonials to be used primarily in advocating the class.


Plan 2: Emotion Through Art

Class focuses on the value of expressing emotions through art. Three classes to work on: anger, joy, depression, peacefulness, human energy, femininity, illness, and other emotions of the students’ choice.

Length: Three hours once a week for three weeks
Appropriate Ages: Ages ten and above
Academic Subjects: Language Arts and Reading, Social Studies
Subtopics: Literature, Life Skills, Sculpture
Intelligences Being Addressed: Bodily/Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal Intelligence, Verbal/Linguistic, Visual/Spatial
Materials, Equipment, and Student Supplies:
Water-based clay
Plaster of Paris
Formica squares approximately 10x 10 inches
Hard plastic strips to use to dam the plaster, approximately 11x 2 inches
Tools (either clay or household items)
Gallon-size zipper-lock bags to mix plaster
Plastic or cardboard to cover the tables

Teacher References:
Drawing and the Artist Within.  Betty Edwards.  Simon and Schuster 1986. ISBN: 0-671-49386-8.  Chapter seven, Drawing Insights.

Life, Paint, and Passion. Michelle Cassou and Stuart Cubley.  Penguin Putman 1995. ISBN: 0-87477-810-7

Instructional Objectives or Enduring Understanding:
Students will:

Instructional Plan:
General plaster instructions:

  1. Roll out a ½-inch-thick slab of clay on the Formica square.
  2. Using fingers or entire hands and different tools or objects, experiment in creating various low reliefs. This relief is the mold – the final project will be the plaster that is poured into the mold. It is important to note that the end result of the art is reversed when the project is completed. (Good idea to do a very small test piece first.)
  3. Use the plastic strips to create a dam by placing the strips on all four sides of the finished relief. Press excess clay on the outside of the strips to hold the strips in place and seal in the plaster. Be sure to seal the corners where the strips meet with clay, also.
  4. Mix the plaster in the zipper-lock bags. Experiment beforehand to develop your own recipe for consistency. Start with the directions on the plaster container.
  5. Pour the plaster over the clay in a slow, steady stream. Pound the table for a moment to release trapped air.
  6. After the plaster hardens, remove the plastic strips. Carefully peel the clay away from the plaster of Paris and observe your bas-relief creation.

The first lesson begins with becoming familiar with the material, and consists of an exercise used solely to familiarize the student with the techniques of reverse molds, creating dams to contain the plaster, and plaster mixing. Work is done with clay slabs 2x2 inches square and about ½ inch thick. Each student should push his thumb into the slab and then put another little piece next to the print before pouring the plaster to show students how the material reverses whatever they do. Students are not allowed to use any symbols or words to convey emotions; rather, they are instructed to allow the emotion to well up inside them and flow out of their hands and go directly into the clay. They are given a wide variety of tools to use, and are also encouraged to think of their hands as tools. After a relief is finished, dams are placed around the slab and the plaster is poured in. Students can feel each other’s works and compare to discover commonalities and differences in ways of expressing each feeling or concept, which leads to discussions not only about making art but also about interpreting artwork by others. The last two classes are given to the students to create artworks of their own design, creating realistic or abstract reliefs.

Assessment or Reflection:
At the last session have students fill out assessment forms asking for short answers on what worked and what could have been done better.  Also ask for longer testimonials to be used primarily in advocating the class.


Plan 3: Fantasy Island

Students brainstorm on and then create an island in several mediums and then explore the world they have created.

Length: Three-hour sessions once a week for six weeks
Appropriate Ages: All ages
Academic Subjects: Math, Social Studies
Subtopics: Architecture, Design, English, Geography, Life Skills
Intelligences Being Addressed: Bodily/Kinesthetic, Interpersonal Intelligence, Logical/Mathematical Intelligence, Visual/Spatial Intelligence


Materials, Books, and Supplies

Play dough clay (see recipe in text of chapter)
Masking tape
Cheesecloth plaster bandages
Police tape, tent pegs, chairs, and a large area

Instructional Objectives or Enduring Understanding:
Students will:

Instructional Plan:
The first class period is spent in discussion to determine the ideal island, all students contributing ideas and talking in terms of cardinal directions when describing landmarks.  Each student makes his or her own island out of homemade clay, and then they compare to see where they misunderstood each other or were ambiguous, clarifying as they go along.

Once agreement is reached, after one or two sessions, work begins on the three- by three-foot model of the island, created from Styrofoam and newspaper held down with masking tape and covered with cheesecloth plaster bandages (from any art supply store). Any other found or created materials can be used to clarify or elaborate the island (sand for texture, padding). After it is complete, each student takes a turn standing on different sides of the island and locating landmarks, how they appear in relation to each other, and cardinal directions from each angle.

The final of six classes is in a large space (about a half acre) where the instructor stakes out the outline of the island. Students label chairs with braille for each landmark, and the instructor places the chairs. One at a time, each student is taken into the island, and has to figure out on what side he or she was dropped off and how to navigate to each landmark. Students not involved in the class can participate in this activity by first studying the three-by-three map. The students involved will get the opportunity to play guide, having developed the vocabulary and confidence to really communicate a great deal of information.

Assessment or Reflection:
At the last session have students fill out assessment forms asking for short answers on what worked and what could have been done better. Also ask for longer testimonials to be used primarily in advocating the class.

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Sample Approaches: Art and the Environment

The School for the Visually Impaired In Jyväskylä, Finland
The School for the Visually Impaired In Jyväskylä, Finland
The school is state-subsidized and offers children education and rehabilitation from pre-school to the end of secondary education. The school also provides supportive consultation for students in local comprehensive schools and senior schools, offering regional tutoring and special courses for students, teachers, and key workers. In addition to training courses, the center designs, tests, and sells educational resources and materials for teachers of students with visual impairments and other needs.

For more information contact:
Marketta Perttunen
Art Instructor, Learning Material Designer

The School for the Visually Impaired In Jyväskylä, Finland
Resource center for learning and development
PL 319 Kukkumäentie 27, 40101 Jyväskylä, Finland
Tel. 358 14 3343 161 Fax 358 14 3343 140

Contents of the Art Program

The main purpose of art teaching is to:

In the following, Marketta Perttunen, Art Instructor and Learning Material Designer, describes a recent art program taught with Asta Lauttanen-Kurtelius, including cognitive and emotional approaches used, as well as the art techniques introduced. The students who participated are blind and partially sighted, ages 12 to 17, grades from 6 – 10. The lessons described here contain information specific to the resources available to the Finnish School for the Blind.


THEME 1: Abstract Art “Landscape”
Cognitive Approach

Emotional Approach

Art Technique
Creating a landscape on a Prest Print board.


THEME 2: “Shadows Swaying in the Forest”

Emotional Approach

Art Technique


THEME: “A Wounded Angel”
Cognitive Approach

Emotional Approach

Art Technique


THEME: “What Do We Get From the Forest?”
Cognitive Approach

Emotional Approach

Art Technique


THEME: The Everyday Environment: Coffee Cups and Pots
Cognitive Approach

Art Technique


THEME: Ecology and Art from Recycled Materials

Cognitive Approach

Art Technique

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Sample Approaches: Raised-Line Drawings in the Integrated Classroom

The Munich School for the Blind

I Know Where I Am: Children Born Blind   
Draw the World as They Experience It
By Elke Zollitsch



In her book, the author-educator Elke Zollitsch describes a teaching project she created that enabled blind children to fully participate in a regular primary school class. For these children, one of the greatest joys of this project was the opportunity to make drawings, side by side with their sighted classmates. Using a sharp pointed pen upon a sheet of plastic placed on top of a rubber mat, the blind children created tactile drawings in response to a variety of class activities and assignments.

Photo of Elke ZollitschHear Elke share her experiences with listeners to ABS’s annual Telephone Conference Crash Course in 2005.

For the book, the author wrote three line Haiku poems in response to the drawings, as well as commentary on each drawing and a description of the project’s evolution.

“When strong impressions from the outside world inspire non-verbal expression, when practical things require explanation, or when fantasies and the desire to tell a story forge new streams of expression, then, in my experience, blind children grab for a pen, too, along with other creative materials.  Obviously as the teacher I played a central role in these creative moments, helping to inspire and encourage an original, genuine response from the child, one true to himself. I would do this by offering him a secure creative environment, letting him know that I valued his work and that I was involved in what he was doing, and I would include other children in the classroom in the process.”

Farewell of the Swallows
Suzanne, 8 years

A Car Ride
Suzanne, 8 years

(see more drawings)

Ms. Zollitsch found that non-verbal processing clarifies and consolidates concepts and narrative, and that this process, for both sighted and blind students, can be used for literature, science, history, and other academic subjects.

Literature and Writing
Comprehension: written and oral, drama/writing


General Perception Observation, Tactile Sensitivity, Skills:

Mobility and Orientation:

Performing Arts:

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Sample Approaches: The 4 Senses: A Non-Visual Art Project and Exhibition.

Orchard House Preparatory School, Dorton House School for the Blind of the Royal London Society for the Blind, and the Victoria & Albert Museum

Since Sunderland Art Gallery’s Project for the Blind in 1913, there have been many art education exhibitions and shows in schools, colleges, and museums that have included students who are blind/visually impaired in viewing of artifacts. However, all of these projects have educated students who are blind or visually impaired separately from their sighted peers. Or they have promoted art purely for people who are blind, usually reproduced from pieces meant primarily for vision (one sense) to be represented through touch (one other sense).

This project took a different approach. Rather than producing, commissioning, or choosing pieces of art purely for the use of people who are blind or visually impaired, this project gathered two groups of students, both sighted and visually impaired, to work together to produce artifacts that can be appreciated by all, and that emphasize the four senses they had in common. These artifacts were then displayed in an exhibition at the Royal College of Art.

The project was coordinated by Orchard House School (Mary West, Ralph Rolls & Simon Hayhoe), Dorton House School for the Blind (Jo Wooltorton), and The Victoria & Albert Museum (Barry Ginley). This project was conducted with the close co-operation of BlindArt (London), The Art Beyond Sight Collaborative (New York) and Art Beyond Sight (New York), three groups with established activities and expertise in this field.
Our Manifesto
One of the founding debates of modern philosophy, between Locke & Molyneux, asked whether a blind man gaining sight could recognize an object by sight when he had only touched it before. Since this time, the studies of blindness based on this question have focused on the following assumptions and questions about blindness:

As a result, over 300 hundred years of art and language education for students who are blind has been considered on the assumption that touch was the only form of sensation available. The Four Senses genre of art challenges these starting points, and instead begins with the following five assumptions:

  1. Senses are not discrete, but work together to form a cohesive whole – such as when it is easier to hear when you lip read, as sight cues help fill in sound gaps.
  2. People who have debilitated perceptions, through, for instance, blindness or deafness, would receive more effective communication from an artwork through an enhancement of the other four senses as a whole.
  3. Art can be communicated through indirect means such as verbal and written language.
  4. Although art favoring four senses is useful for people who have perceptual impairments, the fifth sense should be catered to include the majority of people with full sensual perception, and also to enhance the fifth sense for those with a partial perceptual impairment.
  5. Art favoring four senses can provide the fully able-bodied viewer with a different understanding of their world, and the subjective nature of perception as a whole.

The aim of this project was to gather students who are sighted and blind or visually impaired to produce and exhibit artifacts that are appreciable by people who are sighted and those who are visually impaired through the emphasis of the four non-visual senses.

The project was conducted with students with sight from Orchard House School and students from Dorton House School for the Blind (Royal London Society for the Blind). The project was organized in four distinct phases, each lasting about one month, as follows:

Phase One
Students from Orchard House Preparatory School were given art exercises in representing themselves non-visually. Furthermore, Sharareh Khayami from BlindArt came to the school and gave a presentation during these exercises, describing how they appreciate art. During her lesson, students discussed the experiences of the teacher’s and others’ visual impairments. The students then explored tactile pictures and other objects. The students were then given the opportunity to write their name in braille through the BlindArt Website

After this lesson, students were given the task of creating a self portrait emphasizing four non-visual senses, and de-emphasizing sight. Students thought of the smells (such as soaps or perfumes), touch sensations (such as Vaseline or dry leaves), tastes (such as sweets or chili). and sounds (including pieces of music or voices). The students then made a representative collage of these pieces. The materials for this project were not only traditional arts materials – such as clay, paper or paint from our storage cupboard – but also included items found in the school gardens and the students’ own homes. The students discussed these materials in groups before they collected them.

Phase Two
The students from Dorton House School met the students from Orchard House Preparatory School at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). During this visit, they were placed into mixed groups, with four students from Orchard House School for every one from Dorton House School (Dorton House has very small teaching groups and art electives.) During this visit, the students first toured the V&A with an experienced guide and then chose pieces from the museum that they wanted to represent emphasizing the four non-visual senses. The three pieces eventually chosen were a gold Buddha from the Asian Gallery, a crystal branch from the Glass Gallery, and a series of flame-shaped pieces from the Glass Gallery – this latter gallery appeared most popular with the students who were blind and sighted. All of the chosen pieces were behind glass in the museum. No tactile pieces were chosen.

After the groups had chosen their pieces, they met over lunch and discussed how they would like to represent these pieces. During these discussions, the students also chose the materials they were to use for the art-making process.

Phase Three
In this phase, both groups of students met again for whole working days twice over the period of a week to make four-sense representations of pieces from the museum. The students worked in the groups that they were placed in during the V&A visit, although some people wandered between groups to see how others’ were creating their pieces, and to help other groups during periods where they had less to do.

The pieces were made primarily in the studios at Dorton House School. Materials used for the tactile representations included: mud rock, papier-mâché, UPVC glue, chicken wire and wire strands, and marshmallows. In addition, students discussed further sensory representations that could only be brought on the day of the exhibition – such as noises (through music and downloaded sound effects), smells (through flowery perfumes, soot and wood), and tastes (through chili crisps/chips and powder, mangoes and other fruit, and even more marshmallows, all to be presented in bowls, jugs and plastic cups).

Phase Four
On March 4th (2005), the finished pieces were installed and exhibited at the prize-giving exhibition of BlindArt in the Henry Moore Gallery, Royal College of Art. Our section of the exhibition was opened by the renowned artist, himself blind from childhood, Gary Sergeant.

Orchard House School students arranged the gallery for the arrival of the larger pieces – the Buddha and the flame--from the Dorton House School and installed their own marshmallow branch. Accessibility for visitors was also considered during the installation; floor tape in the galleries showed those with low vision the area of the exhibit, and allowed a passage for wheelchair users. We also setup stereos to play our chosen sounds – including Arthur Brown’s Fire, The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix, and many stage sound effects – and arranged bowls of food and jugs and cups of juice for those interested enough to want to have the full perceptual experience.

This project, thanks to a great deal of good will from the point of view of the V&A and the art teachers in both schools, was a great success. The students from both schools were buzzing during all four stages, showed immense enthusiasm and took the project way beyond their school time. It was also a great experience to watch the students interact with each other. My favorite comments from the Orchard House students were about their disbelief that the Dorton House students were actually disabled. Both sides, as a result, learned a great deal about each other’s school and social cultures as a result.

The biggest challenge that we faced, and overcame with persuasion, was administrative skepticism or apathy. In the future, we will encourage Heads or senior teachers – although some of the latter were sympathetic and gave verbal support - to attend the exhibition and affirm their students’ work. To address complaints from the Heads about the time taken out of “normal” school, and changes in their normal working patterns, we point to the extraordinary opportunity for their students to experience and have their work exhibition at a renowned cultural institution like the Royal College of Art, as well as the other tangible benefits of art education. Transport to and from museums and galleries also presented issues to be negotiated.

But the project was well worth it! Gary Sergeant, Jo (Dorton House) and Mary & Ralph (Orchard House) are fired up and ready for the next project. And now that it has been done once, we have gained the support and interest of many other organizations both at home and abroad. Maybe next time, we will find the whole process a little easier, where-ever it is.

Based on the forthcoming PhD dissertation:
S. Hayhoe (2005) The Moral, Social, Cultural and Economic Influences on Art Education in Schools for the Blind (with emphasis on the UK) and Its Effects on Their Students. Forthcoming Ph.D. Birmingham University, UK. /

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Sample Approaches: Visual and Tactile Photography

Minnesota State Academy for the Blind and the Young Audiences of Minnesota

Minnesota State Academy for the Blind start pageYoung Audiences Minnesota Arts for Learning

Barry Kleider worked with students at the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind exploring the visual art form of photography.  Kleider’s program was sponsored through the Artist-in-Residence Program of Young Audiences of Minnesota. 

Kleider’s innovative program included the use of Solarplates™ to create a tactile photograph. The students were active learners and spent six days discovering the world of photography through movement, touch, sound, and discussion, as well as taking their own photos. Student photos were printed in traditional and tactile form, and displayed along with a written statement by the students in both print and braille.  Students also learned about other artists who are visually and had writing assignments.

In order to get the photograph into a tactile form, the photo was scanned, enlarged, and then made into a transparency. Once all that was done, the transparency was laid on the Solarplate™ and exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet light. Areas of the plate that are exposed to light harden and become insoluble in water. The entire Solarplate™ is then submerged in water to wash away the excess, unexposed polymer, leaving a tactile picture. Solarplates™ can be purchased at

Lesson Plans for a Beginning Photography Residency
By Barry Kleider

Target Audience
Middle school & high school groups

Final Project
Each student will have:

Objective: Show How You See The World
The purpose of this residency is not to get students to understand the sighted world better. My goal is to get them to show me what their world is like.

Session I:  Why are you giving me a camera? Don’t you know I’m blind?

Hand out cameras
Hand out film #1
Assignment #1
Photograph: Self-portrait
Show where you live.
Show who lives with you.
What activities do you like to do?

Session II: What the heck are we doing anyway?

Turn in film #1
Hand out film #2
Assignment # 2:
Something that makes noise.
The most ordinary object in your home.
Your favorite object.

Write a short paragraph about yourself.
Write a short paragraph about the person/people with whom you live.
Write a short paragraph about your favorite thing to do.
Write about a time your family was taking pictures.

Session III: Memory, Photography and Illusion

Hand out prints #1
Turn in film #2
Hand out film #3
Assignment #3:
Open assignment – anything you want to take pictures of.

Session IV: Choosing the Final Project Images
(Need to have an extra day prior to this session to allow students to return film #3 and have it processed.)
1.) Photo description session
Hand out prints #2
Hand out prints #3
Assignment #4
Write about: What’s it like to use a camera.
Select one picture. Do a complete photo description and write about it in detail.

Session V:  Working Up to the Workshop
(N.B. The whole computer, printer, scanner station needs to be tested before this session.)
Students get a dry-run for all the steps in scanning, printing, copying, producing the negatives, burning the Solarplates™ and developing the Solarplates™.

Session VI: Workshop Session
All the other sessions can be a single class period. This is designed as a studio working session which will last a number of hours until the work is finished. Students are permitted to bring in their own music; snacks are provided; pizza is ordered if we go over a lunch hour or dinner.
Students’ pictures need to be:

Writings need to be:

Additional Supplies

Session VII: Putting the Pieces Together

Create Project Display Boards
Additional Supplies:
White glue or glue sticks for paper and photos
 “Duco Cement” or similar product for metal plates
Braille writer for last-minute entries
Computer and printer for last-minute text additions
Final Assignment:
Something you learned about photography
If we had more time, what directions would you want to go in?

About the Author:

Barry Kleider specializes in fine art portraiture, landscape and event photography. Introduced to photography through his family’s subscription to Life magazine, he took a serious interest in it while still a high school student. Barry worked as a reporter/photographer for seven years, earning nine awards, including two for news photography.

Barry opened his studio in 1993. His portraits have been featured in two exhibits which traveled nationally: The California Century, documenting the Puerto Rican experience in San Francisco. His work has been commissioned by The Oakland Museum of California, and is included in the permanent collections of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and numerous private collections.

Barry has taught photography through such prestigious programs as the Concordia College Botanical Illustration Program, Como Conservatory, St. Paul, Minnesota; and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum education center in Minneapolis. He is a roster artist with both the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Young Audiences of Minnesota.

Barry lives with his son, Jeremy, in Minneapolis. You can view samples of his work online at:

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Determine components of plan

Confirm plan with educators and administrator.

Lesson planning


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Sample Agenda: 

Preparation for this meeting: Research goals of institution, previous programming history, outline your program objectives and format. After the meeting, outline your program and make sure it is clear how the institution’s goals are being addressed. Draft your proposal and submit it for review of dates, participants, materials, and resources for which each partner is responsible.

Meeting with Administrators of the Community Center

Benefits of Art Making Program for People who are Blind

Goals of the School or Community Center
How those goals can be incorporated into an art program.  Examples are cardinal directions, independence, and verbalization skills.

Who is your audience?

Their age range, types of visual impairments or other disabilities, experience with the arts.

Programming Possibilities

How many students you will be able to accommodate?
What is the length of the program?
What spaces are available?
What resources and services are available?
Discuss the potential for field trips or outside activities. Can participants travel?
Are space and resources available for an exhibition of student work, and/or an opening reception? This could take place at the school, community center or local library for the blind.

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Troubleshooting tips:

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Funding Strategies: Low Cost. No Cost.

Low Cost

No Cost: 

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