“Your Medium, Your Message: Expressing Yourself through Art” was the theme for the annual Weekend Retreat sponsored by the Short Term Program of the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB). The event, which took place March 24-26, 2017, engaged 25 students who are blind and visually impaired in a variety of art experiences. The middle- and high school participants came to KSB from across the State. The event was organized as a series of “Art Cycles.”
Friday evening offered the students the opportunity to explore the art of others in a “Tactile Museum,” made up of pieces by local artists. Students with vision could look over the art works while those who were blind could explore them tactually. They then shared their experiences and discoveries. This was followed by the first Art Cycle in which the students could be creative through origami, papermaking, and t-shirt painting.
Saturday morning offered more chances to be creative. Two two-hour Art Cycles taught by local artists were scheduled. In one, the students made “Broom Portraits” using small broom heads and a variety of other materials from cloth to bottle caps. Plaster casting was the focus of the second workshop. The result: a collection of whimsical characters and unique, personal casts. In the first half of the afternoon, the group was divided into three teams; each developing a “sound sculpture.” An electric floor fan, a portable drying rack, and a backyard umbrella were transformed into sources of sound that could be experienced by touching and moving. Here again, a collection of different objects were used.
The group encountered art in performance by attending a Stage One performance of James and the Giant Peach, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. In a post-performance seminar, the students had an up-close look at the hand puppets created for the production.
Sunday’s Art Cycles focused on wearable art. The students created decorated caps in one and made jewelry using beads of different colors, textures, and types in the other. These could be appreciated visually and by touch.
The art theme was present in other activities as well. Three groups each shopped for and cooked food for a potluck brunch on Sunday morning. They were assigned the task of making dishes that showed different colors: a salad of red-colored fruit, “rainbow” taco shells, chocolate cupcakes, and a large cookie frosted to look like an artist pallet. The meal was, in fact, a pallet for the palate.
This program was possible thanks to the generous support of the American Printing House for the Blind, through its Artist in Residence program with the Fund for the Arts. Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation also provided financial support. Thanks also to KMAC Museum and the artists who made this a great experience for the participants: Liz Richter, Joe Autrey, Michelle Amos, Gwendolyn Kelly, and especially Ramona Lindsey of KMAC Museum, who coordinated the art instruction.