"ABS NEWS & VIEWS " : Spring-Summer 2005

1. ABS Outreach in NYC . . . and Around the World - "Stories in Art" Series Debuts At Visions at Selis Manor

2. Join Us in Celebrating ABS's Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month

3. ABS Launches Art Beyond Sight Website

4. Ahoy Mate!

5. ABS team@work


ABS Outreach in NYC . . . and Around the World - "Stories in Art" Series Debuts At Visions at Selis Manor

The Jewish Museum's Daniel Berson and docents Linda Sterling and Rachel Ringler

"Stories in Art: Exploring New York City Museums," the first of six NYC pilot projects conceived and organized by Art Beyond Sight (ABS), officially began during the spring term at Visions at Selis Manor - a project of Visions Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In this lecture series, presented in conjunction with area museums, participants explore narrative themes found in the paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the collections of various local museums. Experienced educators make the works of art accessible through tactile diagrams and other tactile experiences, verbal descriptions, and sound compositions.

"Creating narratives has been one of art's most important tasks for centuries," says ABS Associate Executive Director . "Since the age of antiquity, art has related the tales of the times, including the classic sagas of Greek and Roman gods, the great stories of the Old and New Testaments, and even the modern adventures of comic book heroes. Genre paintings and historical artifacts tell stories of everyday life, and historical paintings describe important events. In this series, our guest lecturers choose works of art that tell a story or series of stories, and focus their presentations on the narrative aspects of the art."

Francesca Rosenberg and Deborah Goldberg

Thus far, five museums have participated: The Museum of Modern Art, American Folk Art Museum , The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, The Jewish Museum, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We anticipate four additional museums participating in Visions at Selis Manor's fall term, as well as new programs from previous presenters. Already scheduled are The Lower East Side Tenement Museum (October 27), The Jersey City Museum (November 10), The Jewish Museum (November 17), and the Queens Museum of Art (December 1). In addition, ABS will teach a weekly course in Art History during the fall term.

At the end of the August 4 program featuring art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, participant Ann Ellison praised the museum's educators, noting, "Their enthusiasm is catching. I want to go immediately up to the Metropolitan. I've gone to the museum in the past, and I want to go right back!"

Ann, who has attended three of the "Stories in Art" lectures, adds, "This is a wonderful way of getting an idea of what's in a museum. The programs stimulate you, cause you to think about what's in the featured museum and in all of the wonderful museums we have here."

Rebecca McGinnis, Deborah Jaffe, Pamela Lawson, and Ines Powell

Karen Eisenstadt, a Queens resident who has attended four of the past five programs, tells us she "ditched something I normally do on Thursdays to come to these sessions. I like being able to touch things - if I cannot touch art, it doesn't mean a whole lot to me because I'm totally blind," she says. "I like it that the museum educators bring models that we can touch. When I've gone to museums and been unable to touch things in the past, I've gone into their gift shops and often found models of what was in the collection."

Selis Manor, located in Manhattan at 135 West 23 rd Street , is a residence for low-income people who are blind or visually impaired. Visions Services has an office in the residence and offers free classes, special events like our lecture series, adapted recreation, and volunteer and social work services at no cost for residents and people who are blind or visually impaired in the NYC-area.

ABS's projects with Visions at Selis Manor are made possible in part by the New York Stock Exchange Foundation and the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.

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Join Us in Celebrating ABS's Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month

The third annual Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month (previously, Awareness Week) will be celebrated this October. Already, 87 organizations - museums, libraries, schools for the blind and service agencies - have joined this international initiative, and we expect that number to top 100 by the fall.

Awareness Month helps us reach people around the world. As A.K. Mittal, of the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, part of India 's Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and one of our international Awareness Month partners, recently said: "We strongly feel that there is a great need for generating awareness on art education for visually impaired people in developing counties like ours. Your organization could play a pivotal role through suitable information-dissemination and help in generating necessary awareness material, as well as referring us to relevant resources. We look forward to working with you not only for the observance of the month, but also on a sustained basis for this important need."

This year ABS and the Art Beyond Sight Collaborative are taking you on a multi-sensory journey -- exploring art with all of your senses. Here are some of the highlights; we hope you'll be part of them.

In addition, we hope you'll make an extra effort to visit your favorite museums during Awareness Month, whether you take advantage of the special events for people who are blind or visually impaired, or just go for the sheer pleasure of absorbing art through all of your senses. Participating organizations' special activities for October can be found on our Web site at:

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ABS Launches Art Beyond Sight Website

ABS is now online in a big way! Please take a few moments to explore the first stage of ABS's Art Beyond Sight Website, "a one-stop resource for bringing art and culture to people with visual impairments." The Web address is easy to remember:

The site's home page reveals four broad section headings: Network, Teach, Learn, Change. The descriptions for each heading show the wealth of information and experiences to come. But even in its current stage there's plenty to explore on the site, including multi-media elements. On the home page, don't miss "What's Possible" a link to a video clip presented with and without verbal description. And the intriguingly titled link, "Mary Cassatt had..." reveals a fascinating pictorial essay on artists in history with vision problems.

In the Teach section, you'll see the start of the Handbook for Museums and Educators. The first section, Programming A-Z, begins with a video message from Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, National Federation of the Blind, and then offers a step-by-step guide to help museums create accessible arts programs for people with visual impairments. Major sections of the Handbook still to come include multi-media tutorials on Disability Awareness Training and Accessibility Tools Training.

In the Learn section, you can sample an online version of ABS's Art History Through Touch and Sound: A Multi-sensory Guide for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The sample leads you to explore Salvador Dali and Surrealism online!

Under Change, you'll find all you need to know about Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month: October 2005. And under Network, you can join Interdisciplinary Discussion Groups to get advice from experts and share experiences with colleagues around the world.

Still to come on the Art Beyond Sight website: an E-Gallery of art by artists with visual impairments; a Teacher Resource Center; a Theory & Research Center; Human Resources information on employment opportunities at museums and in the arts for people with visual impairments. And more!

As ABS continues to fundraise and build this extensive site, we'd like to know your thoughts on this first exciting stage. Email your comments and questions to

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Ahoy Mate!

As a small nonprofit agency, ABS relies on volunteers, friends and partners to bring many of its programs to fruition. So we were delighted when we were able to share a free afternoon sail on the Hudson with some of the many people who help us to achieve our goals. About three dozen people joined ABS staff, Board Member Harold Wenning and volunteer Matthew Turner on May 8 aboard the Mystic Whaler, modeled after the Dutch sloops that plied New York 's waterways in the 18 th and 19 th centuries.

Shown here are some of the ship's crew securing one of the sails; Harold Wenning; and ABS's and her son, Edis.
Ship's crew securing one of the sails Harold Wenning Nina Levent and her son, Edis

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ABS team@work

Here are some of the special people that have brightened our spring and summer.

Ava Seavey, George Brianca, Elisabeth Axel

Ava Seavey (left), founder of Avalanche Creative Services, is seen here with designer George Brianca and ABS's executive director, Elisabeth Axel. Ava, George and Neil Brownlee (not shown) have done pro bono design work for us, including the concept and creation of our 2004 Art Beyond Sight Awareness Week poster and brochure. They also donated a color printer to our office.




Carolyn Crosse

Carolyn Crosse is working towards a master's degree in Art and Design Education at the Pratt Institute. As an ABS intern, her interests have involved her in the grant-writing process, October's Awareness Month Conference and Telephone-Conference Crash Course, and the Visions at Selis Manor lecture series. Carolyn also designed our new Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month letterhead. Her goal is to combine her writing skills, her imagination, and her dedication to education, towards a form of educational programming and broadcasting.





From left, Matt Turner, Carolyn Crosse and Tami Herzog

From left, Matt Turner, Carolyn Crosse and Tami Herzog. Matt found ABS through an internship program at Visions Services. A former commercial designer - work he can no longer do because of his impaired vision - he is looking for work in public relations and advertising. Although his internship has ended, Matt continues to volunteer at ABS volunteer; he has focused on our Web site's Yellow Pages and e-gallery, and Awareness Month outreach and publicity. Tami , an art therapist who works with children who have visual impairments, is also a doctoral student in New York University 's Art Education Program. During her internship at ABS, Tami has worked with Matt to construct an e-gallery for blind artists. In addition, she is preparing to teach an upcoming art history course with using ABS's multi-sensory guide, Art History Through Touch and Sound. Upon completion of the doctoral program, Tami plans on establishing art therapy programs for children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities in schools and hospitals.

Not shown, but also invaluable: Christina Soriano, Susan Petrarca and Nicole A. Wilkinson . Christina is a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University , working towards a Masters in Art Education. At ABS, she is assisting with public outreach and publicity for Awareness Month, as well as helping to develop new resources for reviewing ABS materials. She aspires to teach in the New York City public school system, and would specifically like to concentrate on teaching art to children with special needs. She ultimately hopes to start her own art community center. Susan , who is pursuing an M.A. in Art Education at New York University (NYU), interned with ABS this spring. She developed a national press list and brainstormed on Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month events. Nicole , also pursuing an M.A. in Art Education at NYU, worked on outreach for Awareness Month.

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Painting by Peter Paul Rubens; detail of woman carrying a basket on her head and holding the hand of a child. Half the image is a tactile drawing, half the original painting.Rubens paintingRubens painting
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