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Guest Blog by Tess Feltes, Gallery 6 Coordinator at the Children’s Museum of NH

When the New Hampshire Association for the Blind approached me with the idea of an exhibit in the Museum’s Gallery 6 focusing on artwork enjoyed by persons with low vision or who are non-sighted, my first response was one of confusion!

How could this be done?

It took a shift from a traditional way of thinking to a broader definition of art. First, I had to embrace the concept that art belongs to everyone, not just the sighted and that there are many ways a person can have an aesthetic experience.

Art conveys ideas, emotion and beauty. We have to have art to live the full human experience. Art teaches us that not all problems have a single, correct answer. Art broadens our perceptions.

There is not one single answer or way of perceiving a work of art. Sometimes it is better NOT to have a specific goal, but to experiment and engage in the act of DISCOVERY.

Operating on these ideas, the initial idea was to develop an exhibit that visitors could TOUCH.

The next step was to contact a pool of creative thinkers. A call for art was issued to the talented members of the New Hampshire Art Association and other artists in the community. The response was intriguing!

From soft felted textiles, gleaming stainless steel wall sculptures and textural abstract paintings to three-dimensional collages, whimsical sculpture and assemblage, the walls of Gallery 6 offers visitors a myriad of tactile and imaginative pieces that give form to the unseen worlds of ideas and dreams.

Even as the exhibit was being installed, I watched children slow down not only to LOOK but also to TOUCH the work. I made a delightful discovery: this is an important way of engaging children and enhancing their enjoyment.

There are so many different approaches to the tactile art, it is hard to single out any particular pieces. Each piece seems to speak to each visitor differently and in a very personal way.

Gallery 6 has a way of wanting to burst beyond the walls and expand throughout the Museum. Because we want to offer visitors an opportunity to create their own tactile works and to explore for themselves the world beyond vision, there are specially designed activities in the Museum’s Muse Studio.

A section of the exhibit honors a truly inspirational pioneer, Helen Keller, who changed the public’s perception of people with disabilities. Born in 1880, she became known around the world as a symbol of the strength of the human spirit, yet she was much more than a symbol. She was a woman of intelligence, ambition, and great accomplishment, who devoted her life to helping others.

Her life story illustrates this truth:  physical limitations may be restricting, but a person’s true value comes from the depth of her mind

Finally we asked ourselves: How would technological advances available today change Helen Keller’s enjoyment of art? We sought out Marty Quinn – a most creative and innovative fellow to add MUSIC to the aesthetic experience…. and in the process he enhanced the kinesthetic experience as well!

Marty’s MoveMusic technology is featured during Art Beyond Vision as part of the popular Build It. Fly It. exhibit. Visitors are able to hear the paths of falling objects as music. Using visual to image sonification technology developed as part of NASA grants, visual surveillance software tracks the moving objects as they are selecting pixels on a computer screen.

Sound intriguing? Come to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire between now and Memorial Day and experience the world of Art Beyond Vision for yourself!

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