HKSB in the Media
Touching & Touched by Fine Art: Brooklyn Museum Tours for the Blind
New York Daily News
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
by Joyce Shelby
Although Armando Chisari has loved art all his life, he can no longer experience it as he used to because of vision problems.
But the 86-year-old retired teacher and administrator has found another way to enjoy works of art—through touch—on tours offered at the Brooklyn Museum.
“I never thought I’d get to the point where I could touch a Rodin,” said Chisari, of Dyker Heights, as he used his hands to examine the face, hands, robes and feet of one of the famous bronze Burghers of Calais.
“With macular degeneration, there’s never a good outline,” Chisari said. “Here you feel the anguish in the face. There’s nothing abstract about this work. I appreciate that very much.”
Maribeth Flynn, the museum’s coordinator of access programs, said, “Lack of sight shouldn’t keep someone away from the museum.”
The museum began offering Touch Tours last year, Flynn said, but so far, attendance has been only fair. Next Tuesday afternoon, to celebrate Art Beyond Sight Awareness Month, the museum will host an open house for adults who are blind or have visual impairments.
On the guided Touch Tours, visitors also can examine masks from the museum’s African collection and feel textiles from the Peruvian collection.
Annamarie Kaplon of Bensonhurst described her tour as “nothing short of fabulous.”
“I was floored,” said Kaplon, 51, who has retinitis pigmentosa. “The sculptures were so detailed, so vivid.”
Rosemarie Romano, 70 agreed. “This is not the same as seeing, but it’s quite an experience,” she said.
Romano, who is blind, teaches typing and computer courses at Helen Keller Services for the Blind and encouraged the museum to develop the tour.
After exploring the Rodin sculptures through touch, Chisari wondered aloud whether people with eyesight could enjoy the French master’s works as much.
Tour guide James Marshall replied: “I’m sure Rodin would be delighted that you were here, touching the work and getting the expressions of emotion, of anguish and of life in the way he has shown it.”