Doing Good: Crystal Bridges brings art to life for the visually impaired

Doing Good

A new program allows the visually impaired to see exhibits at Crystal Bridges.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — Enjoying paintings and sculptures no longer has to be solely a visual experience. Crystal Bridges is finding ways to share its artwork with more people, including the visually impaired.

Rita Reese-Whiting feels a piece of artwork at Crystal Bridges.

“Feel the billowy ripples in the skirt,” Rita Reese-Whiting described as she slowly felt a replica painting at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

“Scents, sounds, fabric textures,” Senior Museum Educator and Accessibility Coordinator Kim Crowell said of all the different wants the museum is bringing the art to life. You will not see a “do not touch” sign at this exhibit.

“We invite various artists from the community where we bring in works of arts that they created that can be experienced through touch,” Crowell said.

Visual art was something Reese-Whiting hadn’t been able to enjoy after a blood clot years ago.

“I barely have any light perception left at this point,” she said.

Crystal Bridges teamed up with the Arkansas Council of the Blind to make the museum more inclusive.

“The more we can experience of our history and our culture the better and crystal bridges is right up there with trying to make it accessible to everyone,” Arkansas Council of the Blind Treasurer Rachel Ames said.

The program is not just with the paintings. 3-D printing has made it possible for guests to enjoy sculptures too.

Reese-Whiting examines a 3-D printed replica of a sculpture at Crystal Bridges.

“I could feel the different parts. Standing next to it you can only reach up so high,” Reese-Whiting explained as she felt a scaled-down version of a sculpture on display at the museum.

The program is helping the museum reach more people than ever.

“100 to 600 individuals that visit the museum on a daily basis could have a disability so that further drives our desire to create this welcoming environment for all of our guests,” Crowell said.

Even though this is meant to be inclusive for the visually impaired, it enhances the experience for everyone.

“Each different sense you use, it just kinda makes it more alive and more real in a greater way than just looking at something,” Ames said.

“I can see this painting. I look at it differently than you do, but I can still see it,” Reese-Whiting said.

Crystal Bridges has other programs to accommodate other disabilities, people with autism or Alzheimer’s. For more information on all it has to offer, click here.

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