Blind Spot: A Matter of Perception

The Massillon Museum’s Blind Spot: A Matter of Perception exhibition will be a compilation of more than a dozen components with the hope of reaching persons with low vision and blindness as well as sighted patrons.

The free public exhibition opening will be held Saturday, February 18, 2017, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. The event will include refreshments inspired by paintings in the exhibition and a performance of specially commissioned music at 4:00 p.m.  Persons with blindness and low vision and their guests will be welcomed at 1:30 p.m.  The Massillon Museum members’ preview will begin at 2:00 p.m. No reservations will be necessary.  The exhibition will continue through May 23, 2017.

Blind Spot is based on ten abstract paintings from the Massillon Museum’s permanent collection.  Each painting will be accompanied by a small-scale, three-dimensional aluminum model and a braille label, which all visitors will be invited to touch.  Large-print labels will also be displayed.

Ten abstract paintings from the Massillon Museum permanent collection

Artists include Richard Andres, David Appleman, Julius Faysash, Clare Ferriter, Richard Florsheim, Sherri Hornbrook, Leo Thomas Kissell, Walter Quirt, and Theodoros Stamos (represented by two paintings).

Large-print labels

High-contrast, large-print labels affixed to the wall at appropriate heights throughout the exhibition will help visitors with low vision enjoy the paintings.

Braille labels

Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, Ohio, will produce exhibition labels in braille.

Tactile gallery maps

Gallery maps with raised information, also provided by Clovernook Center, will help guests with low vision and blindness navigate through the exhibition independently.

An aluminum tactile model of each painting

Canton artist David McDowell has created a three-dimensional aluminum tactile model of each artwork.  Visitors will be able to feel the shapes in the paintings.

An iPad touchscreen soundscape app for each painting

Classic Interactions has created an app for each painting with audible descriptions of the artwork, and sounds inspired by the painting.  These sounds were developed with help from Barry Stirbens and Jan Stirbens, both of whom have congenital blindness.  The Philomatheon Society of the Blind provided tactile stickers to adhere to the iPads to help patrons with blindness locate the audible home screen buttons.

Tactile response artworks created by students 

Students at the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, Ohio, will create ceramic sculptures based on their responses to soundscapes described by co-curators Barry Stirbens and Jan Stirbens, and developed into apps by Classic Interactions to audibly describe the visual paintings.

Accessible exhibition design

Carpet donated by Fred’s Carpets in Canton will help patrons who use canes to locate interactive stations.

Low-vision simulator goggles 

Sighted patrons may borrow goggles that replicate central scotomas (blind spots) so they can experience the exhibition from the perspective of a person with age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the leading cause of low vision in the developed world.

Tours

Accessible tours of the entire Museum are available upon request.  Advance reservations are required.

Braille workshop

Erin Byrne will offer a four-session “Fundamentals of Reading Braille” workshop on Saturdays, April 22 and 29, May 6 and 13, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Sponsored by the Philomatheon Society of the Blind, the workshop is free, but pre-registration is required.

Performance of music commissioned for the exhibition opening

At the exhibition opening—Saturday, February 18, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.—a Canton Symphony Orchestra quartet will perform three compositions inspired by three paintings in the exhibition. Students in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Composer Fellowship composed the pieces.

“Do the Mu”

David McDowell, who created the tactile models for the exhibition, will lead the free monthly “Do the Mu” workshop on Saturday, March 4, 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Participants in the intergenerational drop-in workshop will create tactile sculptures based on MassMu’s abstract painting collection.

Brown Bag Lunch

The free monthly event will feature a panel discussion with Blind Spot developers—curator Heather Haden, co-curator Barry Stirbens, and artist David McDowell—on Tuesday, May 23, 12:10 to 12:50 p.m.

Photography Workshop

Mark Andres, son of Richard Andres, whose painting Carnival IV is in the exhibition, will lead a photography workshop for persons of all vision levels on Saturday, May 20.  Andres founded Seeing with Photography Collective, a collective of photographers who are blind or have low vision that has exhibited work around the world.

Performance of original music composed for Blind Spot

The Canton Symphony Orchestra will perform music by Alex Cooke, Joseph Tolonen, and Qingye Wu, students in the Cleveland Institute of Arts Composer Fellowship.  The compositions were inspired by paintings in the Blind Spot exhibition.

The Massillon Museum and museums internationally have begun designing exhibitions more universally to advocate for enhanced arts access, especially following the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2015.  Blind Spot is a concerted effort by the Massillon Museum to address access for as many audiences as possible.

 

The concept of this exhibition has been germinating in Massillon Museum Curator Heather Haden’s mind for a number of years.  “In 2011, in advance of starting a curatorial internship at the Massillon Museum, I attended the Faces of Rural America exhibition,” said Museum Curator Heather Haden.  “Our current director, then-curator, Alexandra Nicholis Coon, had commissioned four local artists to each translate a photograph into a tactile model with braille.  At the time I encountered Faces of Rural America, I was reading, for leisure, Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark, a work of fiction about an art critic who goes blind in a terrible car accident.  Simultaneously, I was a masters student of art history at Kent State focusing on the history of abstract painting and I thought to myself, if I were to lose my sight, how could I possibly enjoy abstract art?”

 

Haden received a grant through the Ohio Arts Council to attend the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability conference in Pittsburgh in August 2016 to support exhibition development.

 

Blind Spot sponsors include Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Philomatheon Society of the Blind, and Fred’s Carpets. Western Reserve Public Media is the media sponsor. The Massillon Museum receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark.  Yund’s Carwash and Detail, Bates Printing, MCTV, Cyrus Custom Framing, The Dell Group, Farmers National Bank, Bonnie’s Engravers Gallery and Signs, Massillon Development Foundation, and the Massillon WestStark Chamber of Commerce helped provide exhibition support through corporate membership.

 

The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon.  Free parking is available on adjacent streets and in nearby city lots.  The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.  For more information, call 330-833-4061 or visit massillonmuseum.org.